The idea of meritocracy, that is, a system where people succeed based upon their merits is invariably incompatible with the left’s ideals of equality and fairness. This discussion might quickly digress in a semantics rat hole but overall, I think this is a very clear point. Only people who don’t think through the consequences of these lefty ideals fail to see this clear conflict.
For one thing, I believe there are very few people who would challenge the idea that all people are by nature different. Physically and psychologically, each one of us ha strengths and weaknesses that ultimately give us unique talents and potential. We are also unique in what we appreciate and therefore in what we as a society reward. Therefore, in a free society you will have certain people who follow certain careers and at the same time, you have certain professions or occupations that are more highly regarded than others.
All of this means that, at the end of the day, it is simply impossible to have a free society that is ‘equal’.
Second point is about fairness. You see, the left’s response to the natural inequality of our society is that we are not ‘playing in a leveled play field’. What that really means is that they think people’s starting point, i.e. the wealth of your family, your race, country you are born, etc., are factors that override personal qualities in determining one’s success or failure. In simpler words, people on the left believe that ‘luck’ is the most determinant factor in life. Therefore, the left justifies equalization policies (always based on force, as all government policies are) as an effort to help people with bad luck so they can compete more equally with the more fortunate.
The fact that luck plays a role in life is undeniable. A poor kid in Ethiopia has very little chance of succeeding at anything. Someone born with mental disability might never be able to take care of himself no matter what. The problem is when this valid concept is expanded in a way to include all our natural differences. The current ideology in our left believes that almost all inequality in the world is caused by factors beyond one’s control. When you follow that logic, you end up tracing someone’s success to something that was ‘given’ to that person and on the other hand anyone’s failure to something that was inflicted on them.
This ideology is by definition in conflict with meritocracy. If people don’t control their actions or their outcomes, there is no way to organize a society around personal achievement.
What I believe (and most of what is called ‘conservatives’ believe) is that, in a stable society where healthy individuals are free of war, famine and political persecution, most of our outcomes are a consequence of our acts. Yes, rich people do have an easier starting point but that advantage can be easily wasted if that person doesn’t make the right choices. Yes, racism exists and certain people will have a harder life because of it but that doesn’t mean these people cannot succeed and be incredibly wealthy. We have examples that prove these ideas true all around us. This is not theory, this is reality.
Most importantly, I believe that ‘success’ goes beyond money. We live in a society where people are free to work very little if they accept a lower economic situation. It might sound weird to think of people choosing to be poorer but I think this is a profoundly misleading fallacy. Actually, much of the left’s intelligentsia is comprised of people who chose the academic life which is by no means a great way to be making a lot of money. The problem is, of course, that these people sometimes don’t understand (or accept) such trade-offs.