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The Myth of Meritocracy

The concept of ‘meritocracy’—a system in which government leaders and officials are selected based on merit or competency for the job—seems sensible enough at first glance. After all, haven’t we had enough of candidates who are elected because they had the best marketing team and people who are appointed because someone owes them political favors?

The problem is that campaigns often will say anything to make a candidate more popular and will promote a candidate as if popularity or financial, military, or political success = merit. To make sense, merit must be based on ability to do a job well—and in government jobs, this means serving the people. To make sense, I think this must include intelligence, skills, and—perhaps even more important—honesty, integrity, and morality. Unfortunately, a person’s financial, military, or political success is all too often attained without these characteristics—and may even indicate these attributes are lacking.

One of the results of our system is too much emphasis on what looks good, instead of what’s right. When we select people whose qualifications are financial, military, or political success, we may get results that are very harmful:  we get more efficient ways to practice genocide as shown by the Nazi’s and the U.S. in World War II. We get mountaintop-removal coal mining (MTR) and fracking for natural gas to perpetuate the dinosaur economy, without regard for the devastation effects on the lives and health of the people who live in those areas. We get nuclear power that risks the lives of millions every day. We get schools that aren’t too good at promoting learning and independent thinking, but do a good job of keeping kids busy and obedient until they are ready to go to work or to college. We get billions of tons of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our food and our environment. And we get a food system that produces more food at lower prices, but has lower nutritional content, poisons the environment, and undermines people’s health.

One solution is the growing movement to establish the principle of the Rights of Nature to ensure the legal protection of the ecosystems on which we depend, often in conjunction with Community Rights ordinances that assert the rights of communities to protect their people over the rights of corporations and the rights of the state to permit harm.

See ‘The Importance of Being Radical’, by Noël Jones, and ‘Protecting the Interests of the People’, by Karen Feridun, in the 2012 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley

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Posted in Building Community, Community – Government & Rights, Democracy, Environmental Health, Fossil Fuels, Industrial Food Production, Nuclear Power, Resource Extraction, Rights of Nature | Mother Earth,

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