Photo of the day

Fun Big Picture set of world record attempts.  This one saddens me– so many people but still far short of the record:

Chefs pose for a photograph at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, on March 16. According to the organizers, 2,340 chefs and sommeliers met during an attempt to beat the Guinness World Record of the largest gathering of chefs in one place. Dubai set the record in early January 2013 with around 2,847 participants. (Bernardo MontoyaReuters) 

Meritocracy isn’t fair

Loved this post from Yglesias a few days ago:

I often hear the word “meritocracy” kicked around rather thoughtlessly on the Internet in a context where the suggestion is that an “unfair” system is somehow the opposite of a meritocratic one. The reality is just the reverse. Meritocracy itself is often grossly unfair. A great example came yesterday from Kevin Drum, who, as you may know, is obsessed with the link between lead in children’s bloodstreams and crime. A key point for my purposes, though, is that toxic lead exposure during childhood doesn’t just lead to increased likelihood of committing violent crime. It’s generally associated with a range of cognitive impairments. Drum’s point yesterday was to draw our attention to the fact that while black youths still commit crimes at a higher rate than white ones, the black offending rate has fallen much faster than the white one, and this is because the racial gap in lead exposure has also fallen a great deal…

The point, however, is that the unfairness that who your parents were and where they lived 30 or 40 years ago has a major impact on your income and opportunities today isn’t a contrast to the idea that the American economic system in some sense rewards merit—this happens preciselybecause the system rewards merit and possession of “merit” is largely driven by factors that are themselves totally beyond a person’s individual control.

Exactly.  Which is why successful people should be a lot more humble and willing to redistribute income to those who have not achieved the same in our meritocracy.  It’s totally not fair that I’ve succeeded, in very large part, due to having two great upper-middle class parents, who raised in me in a great community with great schools, and provided the DNA for high cognitive skills and impulse control.   I didn’t deserve that any more than somebody deserves to have been born to a 15-year old crack addict.  That’s why I’m liberal.

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