We Meritocrats

About a year and a half ago I read Neurotribes. Throughout it I kept seeing in each of the autistic cases Silberman mentions that they seemed particularly focused on merit.

I definitely believe in meritocracy, and I always have. It was only reinforced when I read (and recently re-read) Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in which Rand (who was almost certainly a fellow Aspie), provides a epic celebration of meritocracy. Indeed, her primary argument against socialism or even the interventionist state is precisely that people are rewarded for things other than merit (for her the worst is mere social connections).

It is perhaps not surprising that people who identify with their work and who aren’t particularly social would think that the best system is one that recognizes people for their actual accomplishments than for their social/political skills. Of course, social skills and political skills are practically the same. Which is perhaps why many on the spectrum I have met have been particularly anti-politics if not outright libertarian. To us it seems a pretty stupid way to get things done, since nothing is getting done while everyone involved get rich and powerful while producing nothing of worth to anyone.

We thus have a tendency to respect creators, inventors, and other such entrepreneurs but not the kind of people who get what they want because of their personalities or their social skills or who they know. We appreciate the artists and the scientists and the inventors but not the social butterflies and the politicians and the demagogues.

But let’s be honest. We creators need the kind of people who can promote our work, if we’re not natural promoters (and we on the spectrum definitely are not). We autistic creators in particular need a promoter in our lives, someone who will make sure our things are published, sent out, or marketed to the right people.

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4 thoughts on “We Meritocrats

  1. The more I read your blog, the more I think that I could be somewhat autistic. I agree 100% with what you’re saying. When I was in school growing up, I didn’t like that I was unpopular because I focused more on accomplishment than socializing. I was very shy and an introvert. But once I would warm up, I could make friends easily. But that changed when they changed me to another school right when I became a teenager and my upbringing (work hard, etc.) and my being shy made the years that followed very hard for me.

    I still believe that merit should override other things. And after being married to a narcissist, I believe this even stronger.

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  2. My problem with Ayn Rand and meritocracy is that not everyone is dealt a decent hand in life, and even the best players can lose with a bad hand. Also, considering that this world is run by neurotypicals, libertarianism could easily lead to an even more perverse situation than the one we’re in right now where neurotypicals succeed even more and autistics suffer even more. What good is meritocracy when humans are so terrible at recognizing merit in the first place? Besides, does anyone – even the least skilled among us – really deserve to starve to death for lack of ability?

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  3. I have mostly endeavored to avoid partisan politics on this blog, and to be honest, this piece is no different. I want you to think about what I say in the last paragraph. How does that undermine some of what is said in the rest of the piece?

    Also, supporting meritocracy in no way argues in favor of allowing anyone to starve to death. All philanthropies are based on the idea of certain groups of people being deserving of help. Thinking that people ought to be rewarded in business and other areas for their actual abilities and contributions is in no way an argument either for or against philanthropy.

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