I have a world that faces a social engineering problem. It needs to reward its hard working and talented inhabitants, but it must also minimize the degree of arrogance amongst its elite. This is somewhat of a sensitive subject for us Earthlings. While nothing is by any means proven at the empirical level, there are still a handful of anti-meritocratic backlashes ongoing in continental Europe as well as in Southeast Asia. To supplement the post with some basic information, I will list the strengths and criticisms of meritocracy in the form of a few optional paragraphs below:
Real World Analog [optional]
Being a loser in a meritocratic society is not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. -- John Rawls.
There is clearly a "straw man" element to the quote, (no one is lobbying for an unjust society, it's just that some are unfortunately born into them), but this is still a great quote and speaks to some of the desirable qualities of having a meritocratic-like system. Here is a summary of the advantages:
- Rewards talent, motivation, hard work
- nondiscriminatory (especially helpful for heterogeneous societies)
When you can’t understand why people behave in a certain way, the easiest thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. -- Ivan Krastev
This quote, which is another one of my favorites on the subject, speaks to the undesirable effects of some groups of people thinking they are smarter than other groups. Particularly for us who use SE, a fairly meritocratic platform, this should be very easy to identify with ;) Just kidding (or am I?) Anyway, other criticisms include:
- Instills arrogance among those who do well and desperation among those who do not
- Mercenary syndrome: loyalty, patriotism comes second to results
If my world's society wants leading positions to be filled by the most talented individuals, but is apprehensive about instilling elitism, how can the world accomplish that? This is a very broad question and probably impossible to answer. To narrow the scope, let's simply help the world take the first step: how can it implement an "arrogance metric?"
The world wants to hedge their society against the rise of elitism and pompousness that is often associated with meritocracy, but before it may do so, it first needs to have a red line. That's where the "arrogance metric" comes in. The world will use this "arrogance metric" as part of a majority voting system to act as a disincentive to being arrogant. (subjectivity explained below)
If you want to go the extra mile, you may also frame your answer in the context of hypothetical laws, policies, incentives, punishments, ect.
Note: Remember this is world building. Although the question is political in nature, we shouldn't get too weighed down by real world dilemmas: corruption, political will, ect. Think of new policies or social apparatuses that may not even exist yet. Keep it realistic though. Just don't say aliens will come and vaporize anyone who gets arrogant.
- Clarity: Arrogance metric should be intuitive
- Quantifiable: Arrogance metric should also be able to be quantified somehow (as best as current/near future technology allows for)
- Subjectivity: While one person's arrogance is another person's self-esteem, there is a "eye of the beholder" situation. I have relaxed the objectivity requirement in favor of a system of majority rule. We must allow for subjectivity. If x members of said society flag someone for "arrogance" there should be a consequence -- even if that individual has violated no formal psychological threshold. So someone that is not clinically considered narcissistic (or other disorder) can still be considered "arrogant". The main point is arrogance isn't only subject to formal equations but also common sense; think general EQ.
- Abuse: Under a majority rule system, the people could flag arrogance purely out of spite. Ideally the Arrogance Metric would be robust to abuse.
- Communications Scope: Ideally the metric would account for arrogant words as well as actions (nose held high in the air), but you may stipulate in your answer which your metric is robust to
- Modify only: we are still keeping meritocracy. Don't substitute it with a dictator or communism or something totally different.
- Sector Scope: Both public and private sectors need to be held accountable