(THE DAILY BEAST)
By Jedediah Purdy
This country needs some good class treason. Our meritocracy is doing more harm than good, and its members—and everyone else—need to start questioning it.
Advertisement - story continues below
I am a product of that meritocracy. Born and raised in West Virginia, way out in the country, I tested and wrote my way into elite schools, and now I teach at one. I’m surrounded by very smart people who work very hard, and get rewarded.
It’s a meritocratic age. Barack Obama’s life took this kind of path, and his administration is full of the kinds of people you meet there. So are the banks, media, non-profits—all the visible and powerful institutions. It’s our world.
So I pulled up hard last week reading economist Thomas Piketty’s ground-breaking study of inequality, Capital in the 21st Century. Besides a trove of data showing that the rich really are getting much richer, the book is full of peppery Gallic asides. In one of those, Piketty is explaining that more than half of the enormous growth in income among the very richest Americans comes from the super-salaries of executives who sit on one another’s boards and compensation committees. Piketty makes a strong case that in jacking up one another’s pay, they are engaged in class-based looting. A riot in Athens or London is amateur compared to this fountain-pen robbery.