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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Thursday 6th April 2017

The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy

You can listen again to my half-hour programme for Radio 4 about last year's populist revolts in Britain and America, asking whether they were predicted by my father 60 years ago in his book The Rise of the Meritocracy, here. I ask how meritocratic Britain and America are and whether some of the problems we're currently contending with, such as widespread anger among indigenous, working class voters and out-of-touch, highly educated elites, are inextricably bound up with meritocracy. In particular, I look at whether meritocracy inevitably leads to a genetically-based caste system, as my father believed. In the course of the programme I interview a number of eminent thinkers and social scientists including Michael Sandel, Robert Plomin, Rebecca Allen, Charles Murray and Peter Saunders. I've also written a piece for the BBC's website discussing some of the problems with meritocracy that you can read here.

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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy
Posted by Martin Scherer on 11-04-2017 02:06:

Wonderful man your father. Founded some of the institutions I love the most.

Can I get a transcript of your programme?

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy
Posted by Jonathan Higgins on 12-04-2017 10:41:

Great programme, but too short! Sent me back to you father's book which is very good on the Labour Party - to be expected - but also on the EU. As satire goes it is jolly a good history too.

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy
Posted by Martina Williams on 18-04-2017 11:29:

Interesting programme, but I found some of your analysis a bit strange. Your assumption seemed to be that in your genetically based class hierarchy, the only factor that would be selected for is intelligence -- but did not address the issue that new technologies will soon be as good or better at many of the sorts of tasks that are generally tested for in IQ tests (though it wasn't clear how you were quantifying 'overall cognitive ability'). I don't think that I'm alone in believing that the result of this will be that 'soft skills' and characteristics, such as charm, empathy, creativity, ambition, and confidence (often mistaken for intelligence, I imagine, when you meet someone 'smart') will be increasingly important factors in determining success -- if they are not already the most important. I'm not sure that anyone is arguing that these skills are genetically heritable to any important degree? But they are certainly given to those who attend the best schools.

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Meritocracy
Posted by Mario Angeli on 23-04-2017 10:34:

I just listened to your programme on meritocracy. Due to my limited intelligence I had to stop and repeat certain parts. Okay it's my parents fault but I did finally understand it! Hehe!

Anyway I really enjoyed it. Good job! Not bad for a rabid Tory.

Broxbourne (Labour)

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