Uses and misuses of meritocracy

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent speech to new Princeton University graduates has attracted a lot of attention, thanks to a fairly good sense of humour – for a central banker – and not least because of his questioning of meritocracy. In front of these elite students, many of whom convinced that they fully deserved their seat that day and the best positions in society the day after, he stated that “meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest […] reap the largest rewards”. For this reason, he continued, “the only way for even a putative meritocracy […] to be considered fair is if those […] also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others”.

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