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Intelligence Squared Debate: Is Meritocracy Overrated?

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Airdate: Sunday, Dec. 12 at 12 p.m.

The days of kings and queens are largely over. That old hereditary lottery, at least within many democracies, has effectively been replaced by a system in which talent, grit, and ability are meant to set the terms of success. To quote Michael Shaara’s famous Civil War novel, The Killer Angels, “Here we judge you by what you do, not by what your father was.” And yet with income inequality on the rise, and amidst a pernicious and lingering legacy of slavery and racism, new questions are cropping up as to whether meritocracy itself is mere illusion.

Those who say “yes” point to examples of wealth transfers within families, and networks that pave the way for lucrative jobs and fancy educations. Those who say “no” argue that not only does talent ultimately win out, but that despite its flaws, meritocratic systems remain the most effective way of lifting disenfranchised groups from obscurity. In this context, we debate the question: “Is Meritocracy Overrated?”

Heard on KGOU
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