Meritocracy > Democracy. Here’s Why.
Democracy operates under the assumption that what is good for the majority is ultimately good for everyone. Conversely, meritocracy operates under the assumption that what is good for each individual is good for every individual.
The Democratic System
To start, let’s examine the democratic system. The failure of democracy begins when it comes time to decide what is best for not only yourself, but someone else. In other words, what resources you get is subject to the will of the majority.
Consider the following scenario:
Imagine a grocery store where a mass vote determines what goes on the shelves. Regardless of how much the voters shop, all their votes are equal. A strict budget rations how much of each item is ordered.
Of course, anyone can immediately see why this is a problem. Everyone is going to only vote for the things they like and discard what they hate, without consideration of others. This, of course, causes even more problems than solutions. What if your diet doesn’t allow for most of what is ultimately decided? Why should your favorite dish you had on Sundays be removed because the deciding vote was allergic to a key ingredient? What if you now have to keep buying the same groceries because you hate nearly everything else the majority decided on?
Let’s take this a step further. What if instead of voting on what is allowed in a grocery store, you vote for someone who picked the items for you? Each candidate had a list of items he thought you should eat. This makes a bad problem even worse. Whereas before, you could get 95% of what you wanted if you were lucky, you are lucky to find a candidate from the small pool that agrees with 80% of your diet.
These should sound horrible to any sane person, but unfortunately, someone decided to apply this same system to vital public institutions, the military, laws, regulations, taxes, and other functions of government. This is a win-lose scenario.
The Meritocratic System
Take the opposite system, meritocracy. Under this system, you get to choose how much of your favorite items go into a grocery store by giving the store direct potential energy. Where does this energy come from? In this system, those who earn the items receive them. In other words, your merit determines what you receive.
Imagine the following scenario originally pitched by economist Walter Williams:
If I go to the grocery store, and I ask the cashier for 4 pounds of meat, he’s gonna essentially tell me that I’m asking for a lot of service. This meat took farmers, butchers, ranchers, clerks, and packagers to make. Why should he just give it to me? What have I done to earn this meat?
The response in a meritocratic system is that I have to have currency to prove I’ve helped someone. I hand the cashier $20 that I earned from helping someone mow their lawn. I benefit in this system because I value the meat more than the $20, and the cashier benefits because he values that $20 more than he values the meat. This transaction enriches both parties.
This is a win-win scenario, and it should be pretty obvious why anyone who knows what’s best for themselves would choose a meritocratic over a democratic system.