15 June 2021

The CapX Podcast: The Aristocracy of Talent

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Meritocracy is the creed of our age. An idea that has great success in crossing traditional boundaries: not just Thatcher, Reagan and Boris Johnson, but Clinton, Blair and Xi Jinping have sung the praises of a society where anyone can rise based on their own talent and effort.

But just as meritocracy has risen to be the dominant idea of our age, it’s faced an onslaught of criticism, from the traditional left who saw it as a betrayal of principles of equality and solidarity,
to contemporary social justice activists who regard it as just another instrument of white power.

Most interesting though are the trenchant critiques from some of those at the heart of the meritocratic system, like the Yale Law professor who calls it a “sham”- an excuse for the wealthy to game the system and pass on their privilege to the younger generation.

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These are some of the questions that preoccupy Adrian Wooldridge, the political editor of The Economist, in his latest book, the Aristocracy of Talent. This episode of the CapX Podcast is a recording of a CapX Live interview with Adrian last week where we discussed the history of the meritocratic idea from Plato to the present day, how supposedly meritocratic societies have been corrupted and laid low by old-fashioned cronyism, and how we can go about correcting that.

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John Ashmore is Editor of CapX.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.