Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Problems with Meritocracy

America is wonderful because it encourages everyone to survive on their individual talents and merits. While not a perfect meritocracy, America is as close as any country comes in the world. However, when you allow people to succeed based on how well they do their job, rather than manners or background, some real jerks can be the leaders in their field.

Today, Bobby Knight reached his historic 880th victory to move into first place among NCAA Div 1 men's basketball coaches. He isn't a nice man. He has a 30-year history of violent outbursts and bullying. But he is also very successful on the court. He can get kids to win on the court even though he is a jerk both on and off it. Don't take my word on it. Listen to him.

"When my time on Earth is gone, and my activities here are past, I want them bury me upside down and my critics can kiss my ass." —Bobby Knight, March 1994.

Bobby Knight isn't the only jerk achieving all-time greatness. This summer, Bonds can pass Hank Aaron for all-time leader in home runs. He is a well known discontent and surrounded by controversy. He will most likely be resigned by the Giants solely for the purpose of chasing 756. He'll go down as the best slugger in MLB history, but he isn't a role model.

These are just 2 examples in sports, but there are others in politics, business and the arts. I'm sure you could add more in the margins.

In a perfect world, successful people would be model citizens and outstanding in their field. As is obvious, this isn't a perfect world. So what is better? Good people achieving mediocrity or bad people achieving greatness?

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