From Status to Merit and Back to Status

From Status to Merit and Back to Status

Paul Craig Roberts

Henry Sumner Maine in 1861 wrote that “the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.”  Maine is referring to the rise of merit from the Enlightenment and its replacement of aristocratic status as the basis for advancement.  

In the past few decades today’s progressives have turned this movement upside down. The new progressive movement is from merit to status based on race, gender, and sexual preference.  Already in law there is a two-tier system of rights and privileges governing university admissions, employment, promotion, and criminal law that mimic the medieval era of status-based rights.  Astute observers would also point out that in the 21st century both Republican and Democrat presidents have resurrected the power of medieval governments to confine people in prison on suspicion alone and to execute the accused without due process of law.

In 1995 in my book, The New Color Line, I said that the failure of the House and Senate to hold the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accountable for implementing a racial and gender quota regime despite the explicit prohibition in the 1964 Civil Rights Act would result in the restoration of status-based rights and inequality under the law.  At the time my point was acknowledged, but the advocates of racial quotas and preferential hiring and promotion claimed the privileges were only a temporary measure until blacks had caught up and were proportionately represented in government and the professions.  It was obvious to me that once merit was abandoned because it was disadvantageous to preferred races, merit could not be easily restored.

Merit was first abandoned in university admission requirements for blacks alone.  This was followed by a general lowering of grading standards and then to pass-fail systems so that there was no way to measure the relative performance of the races.  Since then we have gone much further long this road.  Merit has been written off as racist and meritocracy as a tool of white oppression.  

We have come full circle.  Henry Maine saw merit as liberation from status-based systems.  Today merit is regarded as suppression of status-based rights.

Writing in the Summer 2022 issue of City Journal, Heather Mac Donald, a member of the Manhattan Institute, reports that the goal of education is no longer to produce competent people but to dismantle “white supremacy.” She chooses for her example what is happening to medical education.

“Medical education, medical research, and standards of competence have been upended by two related hypotheses: that systemic racism is responsible both for racial disparities in the demographics of the medical profession and for racial disparities in health outcomes.  Questioning those hypotheses is professionally suicidal. Vast sums of public and private research funding are being redirected from basic science to political projects aimed at dismantling white supremacy.  The result will be declining quality of medical care and a curtailment of scientific progress.”

The starting assumption of education’s demise is that there are no differences in the capabilities and intelligence of the races. Therefore, all differences in representation and performance are due to racism. Merit-based systems are tools of white oppression. They have to go in order to alter the demographic  composition of the professions.  One doubts this principle will be applied to professional basketball.

Heather Mac Donald’s report is exhaustive.  She includes examples of the dire consequences for professors of medicine who doubt that all disparities are due to racism and who question what the abandonment of standards will mean for medical competence.  Just as no experts were permitted to question the Covid protocol, no one in medicine is permitted to question the essential need to abandon merit in order to achieve racial justice in medicine.

It is telling that the attack on merit first occurred in education. It indicates that the intellectual class in the Western world has abandoned belief in the foundation of civil liberty–equality under the law.  Everywhere in Western Civilization we see abandonment of its Enlightenment basis.  Even elements of civil liberty, such as free speech and freedom of association, are now seen as racist.  Free speech allows things to be said that might be hurtful to privileged groups.  As whites are not included in such groups, anything can be said about them, and there is no consequence.  We now have differential law even in speech.  It was like this in medieval times. A peasant who offended a lord could have his tongue cut out. So far today the tongue stays in place.  It just can’t be used or you are cut out of employment.

Freedom of association is long gone.  There can no longer be Boy Scouts.  The organization must include girls.  But there can be Girl Scouts.  The male colleges at Oxford have been abolished, but there still is a female college.

The destruction of civil liberty proceeds under the rubric of “inclusiveness.” Even gender differences are denied in uni-sex facilities. 

Heterosexual males have experienced blatant discrimination for decades.  They have been denied university admissions, employment, and promotions because they are a non-preferred race and gender.  In the UK, Europe, and the US, white heterosexual males cannot get university appointments until “diversity” representation is achieved.  The entire system has changed from merit-based to status-based. 

How will a white patient feel about a black doctor?  Aside from the question of competence because of the abandonment of standards, white patients have to wonder about a black doctor’s attitude toward them.  With blacks taught that whites are racists, responsible for slavery and oppression of blacks, will the white patient get the full benefit of whatever skill the doctor has, or will the doctor’s negative attitude toward whites instilled in him through his education mean that he will do less than he can for them?  This is a valid question when the teaching of racial hatred is used to advance a preferred race.

One wonders what Henry Sumner Maine would make of our transformation from merit to status. Clearly it means the abandonment of at least some areas of science, such as the genetic basis of intelligence.  Truth is also in question. Narratives based in ideology are the antithesis of science.  How far will proportional representation be taken?  Will scientific discoveries by whites have to be limited in order to maintain a proper relationship with discoveries by blacks?

This question might seem absurd, but already at Cal Tech, a premier institution of science and technology there is talk of mathematics being racist and a tool of white oppression.  Is math slated for the trash bin along with merit?

Such serious questions cannot be discussed, because they are racist and would destroy careers.

In the Western World today only billionaires have financial security.  No one else can afford to risk his job and being made unemployable.

The era of liberty has come to a close. From this day on, every child born in the Western world is born into tyranny.

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