Thursday, December 03, 2009

Meritocracy Transformed to Elitism & Inequality

'The concept of meritocracy is unstable as its constituent ideas are potentially contradictory. The egalitarian aspect of meritocracy, for example, can come into conflict with its focus on talent allocation, competition, and reward. In practice, meritocracy is often transformed into an ideology of inequality and elitism. In Singapore, meritocracy has been the main ideological resource for justifying authoritarian government and its pro-capitalist orientation.'
- Meritocracy and Elitism in a Global City: Ideological Shifts in Singapore, International Political Science Review [Link]
The end result of the PAP system is this belief that the elites who are the PAP leaders are indispensible without whom this country will sink and the ordinary Singaporean has been downgraded to an expendable being easily replaced by foreign imports. The PAP conducts numerous campaigns to tell us about "Staying Together" and "We are one" so that we to buy into this system as it drives us apart. If you examine their policies, the long term interests of ordinary Singaporeans have frequently been traded away. The Foreign Talent policy which morphed from a policy to attract the best talents, later to supplement our manpower shortfall and after that as a solution to low fertility rates. They tell us "Foreign Talents help to create jobs" when it actually suppresses the income of many Singaporeans leading to a widening income gap[Link].


Anonymous said...

The most important thing is SIngapore can survive and GDP can grow and also there is political stability, peace and harmony.

Doesn't matter who made it possible, foreign talents or what not. Or what methods are used.

Also doesn't matter who suffer most in the process as long as above objectives are achieved.

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 8:41,

You said "it doesn't matter who suffer".

I matters to those who suffer and the problem for the PAP is these people still have one vote each.

Anonymous said...

People who keep shouting about GDP growth is either:

1. ignorant (why not ask about GNP growth?)
2. stupid (not knowing point 1 above)
3. hidden agenda (e.g. pap)

Anonymous said...

have you heard of a husband tumultuous relationship with his dominant wife and come one fine day, the husband threatened the wife by leaving her for his seductive mistress?

the dominant wife, not standing by to watch herself losing her husband to the mistress, told the husband to take a day off,cool down and think over things.

after getting all worked up about the dominant wife and taking the wife's advice to cool off for a day, he figures it is still better to be dominated so long as she washes his underwear.

Anonymous said...

today as i was driving, i saw a old parched brown woman shuffling along, looking somewhat disoriented.

a thot fleeted across in me to stop the car and give her some money before my car rolled past.

in the rear view mirror, i realised why she was walking with difficulty - she was wearing a pair of slippers that was half a size for her, and the raised edges of the heels must have caused great discomfort as she walked.

then it struck me, hey, this gahmen doesn't need to care about this group of real destitude people because they probably don't have a permanent address to vote anyway.

problem solved! peace and stability for all, prosperity for some.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3/12/09 08:41,

Please do not preach GDP.It's a very dirty word in Singapore.GDP does not translate to stability in the long term.MSM always preaches GDP and stability to justify the authoritarian rule.Do you really consider Singapore to be a stable country when its economy depends too much on foreign companies and foreigners to provide the labour for those companies while some qualified Singaporeans are denied of job opportunities?

Anonymous said...

1 million of foreigners with levy of $250 each is $250 million income per month for the government. All they need to do is to sit on their big fat ass and collect big money.

Anonymous said...

To anon 8:41,

1. What good is economic growth when the vast majority don't benefit ?
2. Political stability, peace and harmony for who ? Looks like only the PAP and their kakis are having stability, peace and harmony. The oppositions are subjected to all sorts of harassment and oppression. The average Singaporean's life has been subjected to all sorts of wild changes. Singapore has changed so much physically and socially that it is psychologically disturbing to many average Singaporeans especially the older folks.
3.Only the minority benefitted from the way Singapore is currently run. The majority suffer.To those who suffer, it matters alot as to why they are deprived of their right to a decent life.
4. You are indeed very selfish which is typical of those who support the PAP.

lim said...

anon 8:41,

Don't worry, Singapore will survive, unless a freak event, such as giant earthquake, hits singapore every so many years (like 50), or Singapore sinks due to polar icecap melted.. Not sure whether the people will, though..

Sure GDP growth is good, but so far, what benefits get filtered down to lesser mortals? Good jobs? Better salaries? Better lives?

Anonymous said...

The BIG money doesn't come from workers' levy. That's just spare change to the people in charge.

BIG money comes from middleman fees, increased rents, savings from reduced wages, increased consumption from bigger population.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about GDP?
Any1 knows the median pay of singaporeans?
Household income is quite pointless when more sinkees (with a job) have to stay w parents.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from the article:

Meritocracy has been a key principle of governance in Singapore, most visibly
embodied in the civil service and the political leadership, whose upper ranks
are fi lled mainly by the top performers in a highly competitive education system
largely through “bonded” government scholarships (Mauzy and Milne, 2002:
55–6). However, the concept of meritocracy contains inherent contradictions that
may, in practice, lead to the unraveling of Singapore’s political society. Presently,
there are already signs of tension as the main contradiction between meritocracy’s
egalitarian and elitist strands is gradually being amplified by Singapore’s
deepening engagement with the forces of globalization. As Singaporeans witness
more frequent and serious episodes of national crisis, gain access to alternative
ideas in cyberspace, and observe a widening income gap, the old consensus on
meritocracy will have to shift and adjust in order to contain a new politics of
disillusionment and resistance.

Inherent Contradictions in the Concept of Meritocracy
Meritocracy, as the rule of merit, may be conceived in a broad sense as a practice
that rewards individual merit with social rank, job positions, higher incomes, or
general recognition and prestige. The practice gives all potentially qualifi ed and
deserving individuals an equal and fair chance of achieving success on their own
merit, which is usually a mixture of effort and talent, both innate and cultivated.
Meritocracy, in this wider sense, points to merit as the rule or principle that
governs how the economy, society, and politics are organized. In a narrower sense,
the rule of merit refers simply to a political system that can select or produce the
wisest and best to form a government: an “aristocracy of talent.” In democratic
elections, the people are given the power to decide what counts as “merit” and
who possesses it.
Meritocracy’s loosely coherent central features are themselves potentially
contradictory. In their critique of the American “meritocracy myth,” Stephen J.
McNamee and Robert K. Miller Jr (2004) identify four types of “merit”: talent,
attitude, hard work, and moral character. A merit-based selection is usually coupled
with the principle of nondiscrimination: selection must be blind to race, gender,
sexuality, age, or class differences. However, ignoring these differences may serve
to deny their real infl uence on the prospects of candidates. Meritocracy, in trying to
“isolate” merit by treating people with fundamentally unequal backgrounds as
superfi cially the same, can be a practice that ignores and even conceals the real
advantages and disadvantages that are unevenly distributed to different segments
of an inherently unequal society, a practice that in fact perpetuates this fundamental
inequality. In this way, those who are picked by meritocracy as having merit may
already have enjoyed unfair advantages from the very beginning, ignored according
to the principle of nondiscrimination.

Anonymous said...

1 million of foreigners with levy of $250 each is $250 million income per month for the government.

The money is more than enough to pay for workfare.

Definitely don't need to hike GST.

Anonymous said...

People had made mistakes in the past and had made the wrong choices.
So must give people more time (1-2 day) to think carefully in future, so that hopefully they could avoid the mistakes of the past in the coming ones.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the idea that o and a levels are highly competitive. Even the s-papers these days are jokes. Anyone over median intelligence can ace them if they are prepared to work hard enough

Lim Leng Hiong said...

We have seen some of the potential pitfalls of meritocracy, indeed Michael Young, the creator of the term "meritocracy", thought of it in negative terms.

However, to give the maximum benefit of the doubt, I think that a meritocratic system need not be such a terrible thing, provided that there is:

1. Clarity.

Let's say a government promises a "brighter future for all". That sounds nice, but what does a "brighter future" mean and who are the people in "all"?

Clarity is important. Suppose the government really meant a median income increase for all citizens over the next term of 5 years, and expressed this target clearly.

Now the people can actually check if this has been achieved, which leads to...

2. Accountability

Only when the leaders have expressed the goals clearly, can results be assessed accurately.

Suppose that the goals were not reached, the leaders will then take responsibility for the poor results (internally via pay reduction/demotion/resignation or externally via elections).

Performance must be continuously evaluated, term by term.

If being elected into office only ONCE gives someone a permanent hold on power, that is contrary to the ideals of meritocracy.

In fact, in a highly meritocratic system nobody should have any illusions of landing a permanent job because of...

3. Social mobility

There is no iron rice bowl and this rule applies for everyone.

Top government scholarships may open doors, but are not assured paths to wealth and power. Performance is continuously assessed and those who are not good enough are quickly replaced by the next better player.

To me, the most important aspect of social mobility is that it must proceed in BOTH directions; there must be an equal chance for a king to become a beggar as it is for a beggar to become a king.

Otherwise, a powerful inner circle will form, shielding insiders from the consequences of their actions and blocking talented outsiders from replacing them.

I believe that the sustainability of a meritocratic system is heavily dependent on the above three ideals.

Anonymous said...

the problem could also be in your vision.

if you envisage a "prosperous society", extreme meritocracy, in principle,will find and gather a particular kind of talent to get the job done. as evidence, the fruits of unequal yoke and rewards will be unequally distributed and the result is a rise of social ills and the quality of life reverses for most people - sooner or later.

therefore, this vision must not be monopolized by a certain kind of hhhmmmm....beast.

Anonymous said...

anon 08:41

GDP growth is fast becoming irrelevant. Suggest you do some self study to keep yourself updated.

An eminent is saying that a country can build a big jailhouse to lock up the ever increasing delinquents and at the same time book the building cost as GDP. Sheesh!

In China, it seems like their government overlooks "double accounting". 2 bil are "booked" for GDP even though only 1 bil is dispensed.Why? cos' the recipient declares 1 bil one more time!

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