The Just And Meritocratic State
A central question of political philosophy is this: What does justice demand of us, politically and economically? What is the just way to select our political leaders, arrange the institutions of government, and distribute wealth and income? I argue that justice is a matter of giving people what they deserve, and in the political and economic realms these deserts are usually grounded in merit. This foundational principle of meritocracy can command support across ideological lines and is deeply intuitive--as empirical research demonstrates. When it comes time to distribute a scarce resource, so long as we are free of merit-distorting biases and fair equality of opportunity has prevailed, it is hard to see, ultimately speaking, what principle other than merit could possibly guide us. Meritocracy is an alternative to the theories of justice that have dominated the debate. Egalitarians tend to think that the "fortune" of our genetic and social circumstances precludes the possibility of deserving anything at all. Libertarians rely on the free market to distribute wealth and income, but the market produces gargantuan inequalities which fail to give people what they deserve. The egalitarian and the libertarian are wrong. There is a third, better way to arrange political society--a way in which merit is the centerpiece. In Chapter One I lay the conceptual foundation for my meritocratic theory of justice. Chapter Two is my argument for meritocratic politics. Political influence ought to be wielded by people on the basis of their political knowledge--not on the basis of their popularity, or their wealth, or other irrelevant factors. In Chapter Three I consider the compatibility of meritocracy and public reason. Chapter Four is devoted to distributive justice. I argue that economic reward ought to turn on merit-based contributions to productivity, and that we should commit ourselves to establishing equality of opportunity and fighting the pernicious influences of inherited wealth, pedigree, nepotism, and cronyism. Chapter Five is an independent, epistemic argument for meritocracy. I conclude, in Chapter Six, by considering whether there are fundamental principles of justice other than desert and by providing some public policy recommendations.