For many years, we have seen that the post-modern or neo-Marxist left was increasingly fighting against some values that have been considered important for a long time, such as:
freedom (including freedom of speech, academic freedoms, freedom of assembly etc.), democracy (with the respect to elected leaders), family, natural roles of sexes, manliness and muscles, courage, women's physical beauty and smile, nation, competition, faith, harmony within a society, hard knowledge, industrialization, fossil fuels, fiscal responsibility, accountability, meat, sugar, fat, ... meritocracy.The list is far from complete but even in this restricted list, many entries are really very, very important. Nevertheless, meritocracy is arguably more important than the average entry. Meritocracy has been important in the evolution of species – natural selection is just meritocracy involving "less intelligent than human activities" – and in the development of political ideas, scientific and technological know-how, and basically everything else that people do, especially if they are "achievers".
Freddie DeBoer is a writer who looks like a full-blown man in his best years and who would be accepted to Proud Boys right away (if he hid what he actually stands for). Nevertheless, he turns out to be an unhinged extreme leftist who has chosen meritocracy as his main foe. For years, his comrades were somewhat cryptic when it came to the question whether meritocracy was good or bad (and I will mention the simple reason at the end). He is not cryptic any longer. Meritocracy is terrible, we learn.
Andrew Sullivan titled his review "The Logic of the Bell Curve Leftism" and the subtitle reads "A twist not many of us saw coming". Well, I certainly saw it coming. For years, I could feel that many of those leftists who avoided saying "meritocracy is a terrible crime" actually wanted to convey this point. They were waiting for someone who was less castrated than they were and DeBoer turned out to be the comrade who did it.
DeBoer presents the promotion of the intellectual losers and morons as a new leading moral imperative. His presentation is personal and emotional. He has worked as a teacher who saw both weak and strong students; I think that before he was a teacher, he was also a weak student who failed to master as rudimentary things as long division which is why he had so much empathy for a student who just couldn't "get" long division. There's almost no doubt that DeBoer still considers himself a member of the glorious community of "humans with a weaker mind", those who were generally not gifted when it comes to intellectual skills. And in his book, he is just defending his kin. He wrote passionate statements like:
This is the cult of smart. It is the notion that academic value is the only value, and intelligence the only true measure of human worth. It is pernicious, it is cruel, and it must change.Oh, really? I must have lived in a very different galaxy, one in which the intellectual gifts mean virtually nothing and where whining losers and liars with zero advanced intelligence or creativity almost always end up being the victorious owners of power and material advantages because they are more aligned with the Zeitgeist. In recent years, I even saw a world in which the monkey-level-stupid rants against string theory, quantum mechanics, or even the spacetime curvature were presented as "equivalent" to deep new discoveries in string theory, quantum mechanics, or general relativity (if not more valuable!). Sullivan adds that the American dream assumes that everyone has the opportunity to move as high as he wants if he works hard – but it isn't so due to the limitations that are already encoded in the DNA of each individual (i.e. determined many months before the birth).
For centuries, it was normal for the leftist pundits to passionately and would-be morally criticize the unfair fate that prepares the "worse initial conditions" for some kids who happened to be born into poor families, suburbs, nations, or continents. And they've been working to eliminate this injustice – e.g. by guaranteeing that the working class folks such as drunkard Klement Gottwald could become presidents while the educated ones can't (communism) or that violent Middle East savages and rapists who believe in cruel medieval religious superstitions that are invading Europe get greater advantages than the original inhabitants of the Old Continent (multiculturalism).
The case of sex is something in between because sex, while the sane among us normally understand it as a biological trait, has often been interpreted as a social construct or a "class" by these leftists, too.
However, the intellectual and other abilities encoded in the DNA are a higher level because it's clearly much more impossible to change one's DNA. The hypothetical injustice that is imprinted into a person's DNA is much more unjust than the membership in social classes – and than the biological sex (two of which are ultimately considered "approximately equally good", anyway). Once you accept that the disadvantages of a person's DNA are "injustice we should fight against", like DeBoer proposes, it's very clear that the only solution is to make sure that those who aren't gifted mustn't enjoy any advantages. Such a political program is truly radical because, in the case of the evolution of species, it would ban all of natural selection and prevented the evolution of more advanced animal (and plant) species. In the capitalist economy, it would prevent the better companies and products from bubbling to the top etc. Sullivan uses these words:
What Freddie is arguing is that, far from treating genetic inequality as a taboo, the left should actually lean into it to argue for a more radical re-ordering of society. They shouldn’t ignore genetics, or treat it as unmentionable, or go into paroxysms of fear and alarm over “eugenics” whenever the subject comes up. They should accept that inequality is natural, and construct a politics radical enough to counter it.In plain yet articulate Lumo English, DeBoer simply wants to overthrow meritocracy and replace it with anti-meritocracy because the neutral attitude to meritocracy wasn't radical enough. At some level, it's not really new because every leftist is a person who prefers anti-meritocracy over meritocracy in some limited context: every leftist is a warrior for some "class of the weak ones". But here, the anti-meritocratic struggle was imported to the realm of intellectual achievements which were really the most important thing that brought the human species above our animal comrades (plus several extra floors of progress on top of that).
It is obvious to a sensible person with common sense that DeBoer's recipe is a guide to stagnation or outright decline, perhaps a very fast one, because this very "injustice" is one of the most important mechanisms that have built everything good about the world that we inhabit. The fundamental and most universal pillar of any leftism – the understanding of any strength and any virtue as an injustice – is really the celebration of a world that is just a cesspool and becomes an increasingly stinky one. DeBoer obviously understands this subconsciously and he defends his plan as follows:
DeBoer believes the smart will do fine under any system, and don’t need to be incentivized — and their disproportionate gains in our increasingly knowledge-based economy can simply be redistributed to everyone else.Maybe, the smart ones – except for those who were executed, like Dr Ms Milada Horáková – did OK even in the Stalinist communism. My grandfather, an academic painter, was robbed of his millions but he could still have a house and enjoy a more materially wealthy life than the average citizen. But communism still sucked and failed to significantly advance the Czech nation because folks like my grandfather didn't do well enough i.e. as well as they would do within a more decent system (called the capitalism). After all, communism did guarantee everybody not to starve to death and a few other things and the gifted people who survived the Stalinist terror weren't an exception.
But it is exactly the difference between the gifted and not so gifted people that was removed or "heavily minimized" and it is exactly this removal that is responsible for the inability of communism (and other non-meritocratic systems) to advance the human society. The funny point which is relevant in all the discussions about capitalism-vs-communism as well as in any meritocracy-vs-antimeritocracy discussion is that in a human society, the less gifted ones ultimately benefit from the contributions by the gifted ones, too. Even the most ordinary workers in Western Europe ended up much wealthier than the median inhabitants of the Soviet bloc by the late 1980s. For this "miracle" to occur, the gifted ones simply do have to be incentivized. The laws of Nature do this incentivization rather naturally – capitalism is a natural state of affairs while socialism or communism are artificial, socially engineered constructs. So what's enough is "not to prevent Mother Nature" from using Her invisible hand to incentivize the gifted ones. DeBoer's statement that things will be OK when they are not incentivized is as wrong as you can get. When they're not incentivized, the society stagnates and then degenerates and at the end, not just the gifted people but all people pay the price.
You may protect the "weaker students" from the unpleasant feeling of repeatedly seeing that they suck e.g. at long division but you simply can't afford to pay the price of preventing the smart students from enjoying long division and enjoying being good at it (and enjoying the rewards for those skills) – simply because long division is still much more important and good for the world than the inability to do long division plus the feelings linked to this inability. (This point is really analogous to Penny's "Love trumps hate" when she was explaining to Sheldon that he shouldn't prevent Leonard from dating a female just because she was a loop quantum gravity crackpot.) If you want to eliminate long division from schools, you are just wrong but my main point is clearly more universal than that and there are indeed more important intellectuals traits and skills than the skills at long division.
Whether you get "stagnation" or "decline" was left ambiguous in my discussion above. But the rule is rather clear: when you just suppress (or perfectly compensate for) meritocracy, you will get stagnation in average. However, DeBoer wants something more. He wants to "counter" (or overcompensate) the differences by introducing the opposite selection biases. In that case, the society will obviously experience decline because all the forces that have been improving the human well-being for thousands of years (and especially in recent centuries) would be reversed.
I think that everything that is important about this "antimeritocracy program" has been said above and you didn't need to be explained these points, anyway – only imbeciles such as DeBoer's readers are willing to read a whole book where these DeBoer's misconceptions and stupidities are being repeated 100 times. Instead, I want to wrap with two points. One is that Andrew Sullivan seems to show quite some sympathy for DeBoer at the end. I am terrified by these hints (because it just strengthens my suspicions that a big part of the self-described rightwingers are just additional leftists who just "want to be interesting" in a new way) and in my eyes, he seems like a very similar radical leftist as DeBoer himself (at least locally). All my criticism would apply to Sullivan just like it applies to DeBoer and I really don't think that Sullivan should be shielded from my attacks just because he presents himself as a rightwinger.
The second point I want to make is an answer to an apparent "paradox" presented by DeBoer and Sullivan:
[We should give advantages to the fat and ugly ones...] So why not intelligence? Why do we imply it’s a matter of mere will? It’s not as if the genetic roots of intelligence aren’t well established; or the data proving the irrelevance of parenting and most education isn’t sound. So why the resistance? “It frequently seems as if progressives only believe in evolution from the neck down,” DeBoer notes. “And this sclerotic attitude is not just unnecessary. It is potentially crueler than the alternative.”Why wasn't the intelligence included by the leftists among the "unfair advantages"? Well, the answer is very simple. It's because the leftist ideologies and books were mostly written by folks (who learned to write and) who have passed some (better-than-average) intelligence tests before they were admitted to universities, grad schools, post doc jobs, and faculties of universities (and to publishing houses as authors). They didn't fight against this "ultimate injustice" (people's different IQ encoded in the DNA) because they would be fighting against their own interests. And no leftist in the history has ever been noble enough to defend some ideas while harming himself or herself.
At some level, meritocracy affecting the human intelligence was partly shielded from the leftist revolutionary terror because the leftists wanted to egotistically defend their interests – and the leftists who were chosen as the "leaders" still differed from the generic leftists by their (officially recognized) superior intellectual credentials (and in that sense, they were "rightwing", meaning not morons in this case). But this "somewhat happy era" may be ending, too. Politicization of the universities and increasingly dropping standards and "hard skills" and "hard knowledge" disappearing from the universities mean that the average IQ of the "ideologically formative" departments of universities is no longer higher than the average IQ of the nations – and may actually be lower in many cases (the average IQ at the world's Grievance Studies Departments is undoubtedly below 100). Lots of the people called "professors" today are mediocre babblers and idiots – or at least people who emotionally identify as such (just like DeBoer does). They are no longer incentivized to egotistically defend the people who were intellectually gifted because in average (and many of them) were not. So the radical leftists are increasingly ready to start their jihad against the "ultimate injustice", some people's higher IQ, and this is what may really end our civilization as we have known it for thousands of years. Unless the majority (or an otherwise relevant fraction which may be numerically smaller than 50%) realizes the huge threat posed by these lunatics and reserves at least 100 times greater resources to fight this plague than what we wasted in our silly fight against the nearly harmless coronavirus, the main mechanisms that made the civilization going for thousands of years will be liquidated within years or a decade.
And that's the memo.