American society tricks its citizens into thinking it’s a true meritocracy where anyone can succeed if they try hard enough. A deep dive into what’s really going on will show you that’s not the truth.
What is a Meritocracy?
A meritocracy is a system that rewards hard work, skill, and talent. In a true meritocracy, those who work hardest will rise to the top, while those who don’t will settle near the bottom.
People will get from the system what they put in.
How America Sells Itself as a Meritocracy
American propaganda perpetuates the myth that the country is a meritocracy. It’s called the land of opportunity. Parents tell their children that hard work is the key to success.
People believe in the American dream, which tells them hard work pays off.
America is Not a Meritocracy
The harsh truth is that America isn’t a meritocracy and has never been. At one point, it may have been considered one (but only for white men), but as inequality deepens, more and more citizens realize the truth.
Here’s some evidence that America isn’t the meritocracy it claims to be.
Little Economic Mobility
In a true meritocracy, people would rise and descend class ranks regularly, despite their parents’ positions. The poor could quickly move up with hard work, while lazy rich kids would fall from grace.
But that doesn’t happen.
It’s Getting Worse, Not Better
In the early 2000s, a study found that the odds of a child born into poverty ascending to the highest income bracket was only 1%. People born after 1980 have less than a 50% chance of outearning their parents. Economic mobility is a pipe dream that only a few can achieve, regardless of how hard they work.
You don’t have to be qualified to get into top-tier colleges; you only need alum parents who donate massive amounts to their alma maters.
Kids of Ivy League alums get priority admissions to prestigious schools, whether they’ve earned it or not.
Higher education is the number one path out of poverty, but it’s quickly becoming unattainable to the poorest among us. Rich kids can go to any school they want without worrying about student loan debt.
A true meritocracy would reward people regardless of race, religion, creed, or ethnicity. Our society does not.
Systematic racism prevents people of color from getting ahead. They are mistreated in every aspect of life, from the criminal justice system to human resources. A true meritocracy would reward talent regardless of skin color.
Women still struggle to get ahead in the so-called meritocracy. Capable women must work harder than mediocre men to compete. They’re labeled bossy or standoffish when men with the same traits get hailed as leaders. Men constantly talk over women, steal their ideas, and refuse to believe in their competence.
It Takes Money To Make Money
The adage that it takes money to make money is more true now than ever. Investing is essential to wealth building, and buying a home is one of the best ways for the middle class to build wealth.
People Can’t Even Afford Homes
Homeownership is out of reach for many. People pay so much rent that they can’t afford a downpayment on an overpriced home. They can’t afford to save and invest for their future either.
We can’t call a country a meritocracy when an illness can destroy their life. Our healthcare system prevents the sick from getting healthy, effectively preventing them from competing. It’s also a leading cause of bankruptcy.
People aren’t falling in class because they’re lazy. They’re failing because they can’t afford healthcare.
Remember the teenager who was so rich they didn’t understand the consequences? This should be proof enough that we don’t live in a meritocracy.
In a truly equal society, all citizens would have an equal say. We claim that’s true with the one-person-one-vote system, but it doesn’t work that way.
Money buys politicians. It buys laws and regulations. Those who have money get to make the rules, and those rules often benefit themselves while harming those with fewer resources. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling made it worse and was one of the final stakes in the coffin of American meritocracy.
Growing Wealth Inequality
Look at the growing wealth gap for more evidence that America isn’t a meritocracy. Does anyone honestly believe that billionaires are so much better than everyone else that they deserve the massive amounts of wealth they hoard?
Or does the growing inequality highlight that America is not a meritocracy? The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, despite how hard either work. That wouldn’t be possible in a true meritocracy.
Yes, There is a Real Poverty Trap in America
We often think of third world countries when we talk about poverty, but it’s thriving right here in the US.
America’s Toxic Work Culture Must Change
Our work culture prevents us from leading happy lives. Here’s the problems with American work culture and ways to address them.
Poverty is a generational problem. Here’s how folks get trapped in cycles of generational poverty.
Things America Could Learn from Western Neighbors
Is America the greatest country in the world? If it is, why don’t we enjoy the same perks other Western nations do?
Here are great examples of beneficial programs other countries have we wish America would copy.
US Citizens Can’t Even Get Sick
The best country in the world should allow people to get sick, right?
America doesn’t. Here’s the harsh truth about sick leave policies in the United States.