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Old 09-18-2019, 08:26 PM
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I don't think anyone really wants to live in a true meritocracy


I was thinking about something the other day.

When I was in high school orchestra, at any time someone could challenge you for your seat. So if you were the first chair of your section, the second chair could unseat you if they believed they were a stronger musician. All they had to do is inform the teacher, who would then make the challenger and challengee play a few bars of whatever piece we were working on. If the challenger played better, they would get the seat. If not, they had to deal with the embarrassment of writing a check they couldn't cash in front of the whole orchestra.

I think I only witnessed one or two "challenges" my entire time in high school even though the seating arrangements were always a source of tension and butthurt. Obviously, the high pressure of performing in front of one's peers must have deterred most would-be usurpers.

But I think there's another explanation. I think we had all subconsciously come to the realization that meritocracy ("the better player always gets the better seat") comes with a major tradeoff. You not only always have to be the best, but you must always be ready to be tested and perform the best. It's not enough that you killed it at the chair audition back in September. No, you have to kill it all the time, on every piece, even when you're stressed out over your parents' divorce and geometry exam. Otherwise, your ass might just be ending the year sitting in the back of the section. Ain't nobody got time to be worried about being challenged at every turn. It's just far more easier to cope with the unfairness of the system. There's always next year, after all.

Perhaps the reason I've been thinking about this is because we have a couple of "old timers" in my workplace who aren't really performing very well. It could be that they used to perform well back in the prime of their career, but now they are clearly "air bowing" their parts (to draw an orchestra analogy.) And the butthurt among younger staff seems to grow everyday. Myself included, truth be told. It is hard not to feel some kind of way. You want to think that the good work that you do will come with financial rewards, but then you see people who barely accomplish the bare minimum pull in a higher salary. The system seems like it's rigged somehow.

But maybe my colleagues and I need to be careful what we wish for? I'm thinking we do. Because maybe we would hate working in an environment where we constantly had to prove our value. I know I would hate working at a place like that. And though it is easy to think I would retire before I let myself become a topic of whispered conversation in the breakroom, maybe I won't know when I've reached that point. And I've spent my whole career trying to be "excellent" and to go above and beyond expectations. Maybe when I get older, I will feel like I have earned the privilege to only care about the bare minimum and not be such a goody-goody.

I'm curious if anyone else has thought about the downsides of meritocracy. Do you think the downsides of a true meritocracy are no worse than the downsides of the system we have now? Or do you think they are worse?
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:04 PM
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How do you know they are pulling in a higher salary? Why would the work ethic of others affect how you work?
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:14 PM
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How do you know they are pulling in a higher salary?
Because our salaries are public information. They are published every year in the local rag via an online database.

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Why would the work ethic of others affect how you work?
I said I felt some kind of way. I didn't say I let it affect my behavior.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:23 PM
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Because our salaries are public information. They are published every year in the local rag via an online database
A local rag publishes the fact that "monstro makes $xx" a year? That's strange.

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I said I felt some kind of way. I didn't say I let it affect my behavior.
Fair enough. Why are your feelings affected by what other people make? Why do you even think about it?

Last edited by manson1972; 09-18-2019 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:36 PM
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A local rag publishes the fact that "monstro makes $xx" a year? That's strange.
Well, that's the public sector for you.

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Fair enough. Why are your feelings affected by what other people make? Why do you even think about it?
I'm not answering these derpy questions.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:41 PM
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Perhaps the reason I've been thinking about this is because we have a couple of "old timers" in my workplace who aren't really performing very well. It could be that they used to perform well back in the prime of their career, but now they are clearly "air bowing" their parts (to draw an orchestra analogy.) And the butthurt among younger staff seems to grow everyday. Myself included, truth be told. It is hard not to feel some kind of way. You want to think that the good work that you do will come with financial rewards, but then you see people who barely accomplish the bare minimum pull in a higher salary. The system seems like it's rigged somehow.
Well, you could go into sales where your salary is directly tied to your performance, and anyone who tries to coast is ruthlessly culled.

Or, you could take comfort in the fact that the old-timers are finally receiving their financial rewards for all the good work they did over the course of their careers. And maybe what you consider "air bowing" is due to the fact that they perform so efficiently that they make it look easy.

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A local rag publishes the fact that "monstro makes $xx" a year? That's strange.
Our local rag (a major metropolitan newspaper) links to the state database which has the name, job classification, and salary of every public employee. I was shocked to find out I made more than my grade school buddy, who had a law degree and was at the highest pay grade in his job classification.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:52 PM
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Our local rag (a major metropolitan newspaper) links to the state database which has the name, job classification, and salary of every public employee. I was shocked to find out I made more than my grade school buddy, who had a law degree and was at the highest pay grade in his job classification.
That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?

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I'm not answering these derpy questions
They are not derpy questions. You and your younger colleagues seem irritated (at least) by what other people are making compared to their job performance. I'm curious why that is.

Last edited by manson1972; 09-18-2019 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:16 PM
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That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?
Federal salaries have been public information since the 19th century. In California it has been law for all government salaries since a 2007 CA Supreme Court case decided that they were discoverable if requested under the California Public Records Act, which was first enacted in 1968.

So yes, in CA for example you can search by name for the salaries of millions of people in not just state government, but also county, city and municipal government, public universities, public schools, etc. + every retiree drawing a pension from those systems. Anything having a connection to government of any sort in the state.

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Old 09-18-2019, 11:01 PM
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That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?


They are not derpy questions. You and your younger colleagues seem irritated (at least) by what other people are making compared to their job performance. I'm curious why that is.
They ARE totally derpy questions.

I'm curious why you lack the imagination/cognitive ability to puzzle this out yourself. It seems pretty basic to me why someone would be miffed to find out that a coworker makes, say, 50% more than they do even though when they only work half as much.

You have kids, IIRC. If you told your kids you would reward them for getting a good report cards and you gave one kid a trip to Disney World for making straight Bs and gave the other one a bucket of fish heads for making straight As, would you not expect some butthurt to ensue?
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Old 09-18-2019, 11:04 PM
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They ARE totally derpy questions.

I'm curious why you lack the imagination/cognitive ability to puzzle this out yourself. It seems pretty basic to me why someone would be miffed to find out that a coworker makes, say, 50% more than they do even though when they only work half as much.

You have kids, IIRC. If you told your kids you would reward them for getting a good report cards and you gave one kid a trip to Disney World for making straight Bs and gave the other one a bucket of fish heads for making straight As, would you not expect some butthurt to ensue?
What metrics where you work are used to determine value?
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:07 AM
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That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?
The people who pay those salaries have a right to know what their money is being used for.

Do you seriously not understand that transparency in government is a good thing?
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:17 AM
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What metrics where you work are used to determine value?
Does it matter? The thread isn't really about Monstro's workplace situation, it was just a an example and what got her thinking about the issue. The question is whether a totally merit-based society that is under constant test is really workable without turning into a exhausting competitive race.

Personally I think there is some merit to seniority-based systems. I do believe that 30 years of service( or whatever )have a value of its own that should be acknowledged. But beyond that and aside from the tension of constantly having to prove oneself, purely merit-based systems are more prone to corruption IMHO. That's why unions typically prefer seniority - it is at least a clear, difficult to fudge line. It potentially reduce incidences of unfair favoritism in instances where what is superior performance becomes vague and subjective. "Sure I gave my neighbor and BBQ buddy that promotion, but I honestly believe his performance was better than yours based on this completely subjective and difficult to clearly establish bias assessment, notwithstanding that 85% of the department thinks it is weasley bullshit."

Seniority does have plenty of drawbacks, but I'm not sure it is worse than merit-based systems. Just different strengths and flaws.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-19-2019 at 12:19 AM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:19 AM
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Besides, keeping salaries secret benefits management, not workers.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:23 AM
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Do you seriously not understand that transparency in government is a good thing?
It has been argued that transparency in ALL salaries is a good thing, to flush out and eliminate hidden discrimination in private compensation. There are movements afoot to increase pay transparency generally, not just for government jobs.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:29 AM
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What metrics where you work are used to determine value?
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Does it matter? The thread isn't really about Monstro's workplace situation, it was just a an example and what got her thinking about the issue. The question is whether a totally merit-based society that is under constant test is really workable without turning into a exhausting competitive race.
It's a totally valid question. Any time comparisons are made we need to understand the metrics used to make those comparisons. That's a fundamental concept of inquiry.

In fact, it seems to me that the underlying issue of monstro's points about meritocracy could essentially arise from inevitably problematic metrics.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:40 AM
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The problem with meritocracy is that the "ocrats" who've made it tend then to redefine "merit" in their own favour, an age-old human failing known as "I'm all right, Jack, pull the ladder up".

That much was the whole point of the book originally defining the term.

And it's sort of reflected in the career of the author's son, but that's a different and rather parochial story.

Last edited by PatrickLondon; 09-19-2019 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:52 AM
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Meritocracy and a state of constant challenge/conflict are two different things. A situation where if there's an opening it goes to the best candidate is a meritocracy; one where the person approving vacation time changes every time a different member of the team comes up with the solution to a problem is a bloody mess. And it is perfectly possible to have teams where different parts are led by different people: the person who happens to be best at that task (if efficiency is what is required) or who needs more practice at it (if the situation allows for some temporary inefficiency in order to pursue a better-trained, long-term more efficient team). "Who's in charge" is not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition.

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Old 09-19-2019, 02:01 AM
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Meritocracy is nonsense because there is no good or fair way of establishing merit.
You might think that music ability would be fairly easy to compare, as in monstro's example. But we know that when they started putting a curtain between the person auditioning for an orchestra and the judges, women started getting more seats. I'm sure that before this the raters thought they were judging purely on merit. They weren't.

I've sat in on many performance review meetings. How do you compare the merit of a computer scientist and a chemist. How do you compare the merit of anyone and the guy who is responsible for the deadly poisonous chemicals that could kill us all?
Even if you could magically determine merit, you can't pay that way. There usually isn't enough money to move people's pay to what they deserve for a year without not just giving zero raises to others but taking money from them - a fate which they probably don't deserve.
That's the reality. Merit is usually seen as a perfect unbiased measure by those who have rigged the system to give themselves big pay justified by obviously high merit.
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Old 09-19-2019, 02:07 AM
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They are not derpy questions. You and your younger colleagues seem irritated (at least) by what other people are making compared to their job performance. I'm curious why that is.
A sense of fairness is not only a human trait, it has been measured in animals.
Before I retired my company stopped giving most people raises, which was okay during the recession but not afterwards. We were on flex time, and people who usually came early and stayed late started coming late and leaving early. And the idiots in HR wondered why.
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Old 09-19-2019, 02:15 AM
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The military is a meritocracy.
The system works pretty well for them.

One of the criteria for advancement in the military is seniority, time in grade and sometimes time in service is also factored. In the Army, there is a points based system, awards, education, level of education, training etc. Everything is worth some number of points, including passing the promotion board you have to interview with to move up. The promotion board is there to assess things difficult or impossible to quantify in points. How does a soldier present, how much of that training or education did they actually retain? How's their grasp of current events? Are they members of any organizations such the Order of St. Barbara, do they regularly donate to any charities or volunteer in the local community? Are they ready and worthy if promotion? If you don't pass the board, it doesn't matter how great you are at your job, you can't be promoted. The board is comprised of senior ncos for enlisted, I think officers up to s certain rank also have promotion boards and Generals are approved by congress (how's that for a promotion board). There are always politics involved. You want a promotion from Sergeant to Staff Sergeant but you and your 1st Sgt or Battalion or Brigade Sergeant Major don't get along well? You might not get the nod. It's not really much different than anywhere else I've ever worked. Just a system to quantify the value of a lot of the stuff considered for advancement that many places don't have or seem to need.

Somebody mentioned efficiency based on experience. They know the job well enough to make it look easy. I've been there before and am starting to approach that point in my current job. Plus seniority gives me some other responsibilities that often take me away from "doing the work" yet are 100% vital and neccessary if my company and I want to get paid. The newer (younger less experienced generally) people that work under me sometimes complain that us senior folks spend too much time walking around with a clipboard and talking to the customer. I don't even keep track any more of how many times I've had to check someone's attitude and explain that my job duties include things theirs doesn't.

So, I'm kinda curious, why are you worried about what the old guys are doing, and if it bothers you that much, go ask them about it, maybe you will learn something that will help you get ahead a little.
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Old 09-19-2019, 05:42 AM
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What metrics where you work are used to determine value?
I do not know, not being in management. But it seems like it would be reasonable to think that someone who consistently meets all the obligations spelled out in their employee work plan (the document that outlines their job duties..a document that is also publicly available) to receive compensation that is at least as good as someone who consistently fails to complete their annual work plan. This is the kind of situation I'm talking about. You see a guy working crossword puzzles in his cubicle while you and your colleagues get tasked with his job duties. Are you a crazy selfish jerk for being ticked off that he gets paid twice as much as you but you work twice as hard? Or are you a human being?

I'm not talking about a situation where someone appears to be a slacker to the peons in the organization but is actually a rock star behind the scenes. I'm talking about a situation where even management recognizes there is a problem individual, but there is institutional resistance to do anything about it.
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Old 09-19-2019, 05:54 AM
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I don't think a meritocracy has to be cut-throat and hyper-competitive to be a meritocracy. To go back to the band chairs thing: Just because one person plays one piece better one day doesn't mean they are the better musician. I honestly have no idea how band works: is "chairs" just a status thing, or do you need a designated "best person" for everyone else to follow? Are there responsibilities beyond producing music? So maybe it's good for the band to be a meritocracy, but the "challenge" method is kinda dumb.

SAT is the same way. Shorting people on time is a totally artificial way to make a nice smooth curve. Say you have Jordan and Taylor. Jordan consistently outperforms Taylor--but if the time limits were cut by 10%, Taylor would consistently outperform Jordan. This is entirely plausible. So is one of those kids more meritorious than the other? Of course not.

At work, I am at times frustrated by people who no longer pull their weight. This story seems to play out a lot: A person is getting tired, thinking of retirement. Plans to retire in 2-3 years. They start stepping back from commitments. They quit learning new things, like new technology we adopt or new web platforms we use. All this is fine. It's totally earned. Other people step in to take up the slack--they take on the commitments, they take care of whatever has to be done with the technology. No one minds, because it's temporary, it's a transition. Often, the plan is to take on the senior responsibilities along with your own, and then, when the senior retires, hand off some of your junior stuff to the new entry level person that will be hired.

Then, the person who was going to retire discovers that their job isn't so hard anymore. They can handle this. This is kinda fun. So they don't retire, and it's like they don't notice that the people that took on their portfolio are drowning. It is very hard to go back to the senior and say "Hey, if you are sticking around, you needs to take A, B, and C back, and learn to do your own [software thing]. I do resent this.
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Old 09-19-2019, 06:15 AM
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That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?
Yes. Happens all the time for people employed by federal, state, and local governments. Taxpayers pay the salaries for these people, and so they have a right to know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. See Freedom of Information Act for more information. Various media/watchdog organizations have made FOIA requests to obtain salary data in the past, and I think it's become routine now for such information to be made available without a fight.

Know someone employed in the federal government? You can look up their salary here.

Know someone employed in the Michigan state goverment? You can look up their salary here.

Here's a database for Texas state goverment employees.

Pretty sure there's going to be such a database for every state in the US, and probably a lot of cities and other entities, e.g. the University of Michigan.
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Old 09-19-2019, 06:37 AM
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I don't think a meritocracy has to be cut-throat and hyper-competitive to be a meritocracy. To go back to the band chairs thing: Just because one person plays one piece better one day doesn't mean they are the better musician. I honestly have no idea how band works: is "chairs" just a status thing, or do you need a designated "best person" for everyone else to follow? Are there responsibilities beyond producing music? So maybe it's good for the band to be a meritocracy, but the "challenge" method is kinda dumb.

I think it is both dumb and not so dumb.

You definitely want the first stand (first and second chairs) to be strong players, because the weaker players behind them will be (consciously and subconsciously) taking their cues from them. This is especially true in non-professional orchestras where ability varies tremendously among players. If you've got weak players sitting at first stand, then they can screw up everyone in the section even if there are strong players sitting behind them. So I don't think all challenges are dumb. Conductors can be biased in how they evaluate chair auditions. A performer can goof their audition for whatever reason and end up scoring low despite being the best player. Challenges enable the correction of these wrongs.

But they can be dumb. There are qualities you want in the section leader (first chair) that aren't tied to musicianship. Like, if you've got someone who can't be arsed to come to most of the rehearsals, they aren't going to make a good section leader even if they are a virtuoso. Neither is the virtuoso who goofs around during sectionals (when sections break off to rehearse by themselves, without being under the watchful eye of the teacher) and doesn't keep order. A high school orchestra teacher may decide to put the "very good" player in first chair and the "best" player in second chair because the former is more mature and responsible than the latter. Allowing the goofball to usurp the role of leadership based solely on a single test is fool-hardy, IMHO.
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Old 09-19-2019, 06:49 AM
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The part I was calling "dumb" was letting one short portion of a piece be the test: it doesn't seem like a representative sample, especially if the two students are relatively close in ability, and if the challenger can pick a day they know they are at their best, or when they have observed the one they are challenging is having a bad day.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:06 AM
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I do not know, not being in management. But it seems like it would be reasonable to think that someone who consistently meets all the obligations spelled out in their employee work plan (the document that outlines their job duties..a document that is also publicly available) to receive compensation that is at least as good as someone who consistently fails to complete their annual work plan. This is the kind of situation I'm talking about. You see a guy working crossword puzzles in his cubicle while you and your colleagues get tasked with his job duties. Are you a crazy selfish jerk for being ticked off that he gets paid twice as much as you but you work twice as hard? Or are you a human being?

I'm not talking about a situation where someone appears to be a slacker to the peons in the organization but is actually a rock star behind the scenes. I'm talking about a situation where even management recognizes there is a problem individual, but there is institutional resistance to do anything about it.
Sounds like a Union job or you work with the owner’s family. I think a pure meritocracy can be problematic however I am not a fan of entitlement culture.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:08 AM
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The part I was calling "dumb" was letting one short portion of a piece be the test: it doesn't seem like a representative sample, especially if the two students are relatively close in ability, and if the challenger can pick a day they know they are at their best, or when they have observed the one they are challenging is having a bad day.
This is true, but it would be dumb for a challenger to challenge someone whose ability is close to theirs. Because let's say they outplay their rival and win their seat. There would be nothing to deter their rival from seeking revenge and retaking the throne. And around and around the two go until both are exhausted.

This may explain why challenges were so rare in my orchestra. You may think Becky sitting in the chair ahead of you is a weaker player than you, but it would only make sense to go after her if she were substantively weaker and not the revenge-seeking type. An arrangement like that might happen way back of the section, where the players tend not to give a fuck about chair positions. But it would be rare to find that kind of blatant unfairness towards the front of the section, where the more competitive types are.



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Old 09-19-2019, 08:26 AM
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That seems like a violation of PII laws. They actually publish people's names and their salary?
Even if for some reason, individual's names and pay* for a given public entity don't appear in a database open to the public ( not necessarily maintained by the government) , coworkers at a public employer will still often have a very accurate degree of each other's pay. For example, there are two others in my office with the same title as me. All three of us have been in-title for more than 7 years, so we are all at the top of the grade and have the same salary. And the same goes for some private employers with rigid pay scales.

But I don't know of any US law that would prevent a private company from publishing people's name and pay . Companies often don't publish pay rates specifically because they don't want employees to know how much coworkers earn - even to the point of prohibiting employees from discussing pay with each ohther , even though such a prohibition is generally illegal.

* not salary, pay . Including overtime, shift or location differentials, back pay for aprior fiscal year , etc
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Old 09-19-2019, 10:31 AM
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I think basically everyone has thought about this at least implicitly, except some small number of people who assume (correctly or not) they'll always win out in competition, or the even smaller number whose feelings aren't hurt by losing.

For everyone else I think it's human nature 101. Almost nobody likes to *lose* competitions and the more extensive the competition is toward finding 'the top' person, the higher a % who have to lose. And most people are lazy at least sometimes, part of almost all of us would like to be carried along painlessly in life just phoning it in.

OTOH a society without competition would be a poorer less advanced one. Some might knee jerk to dispute that statement but I think it would have to be either an unthinking knee jerk, or assumption that it was very unfair competition or some kind of cut throat set up that was actually counterproductive, though either of those is entirely possible in a given case. But it's hard believe anyone could seriously argue that there isn't any gain from the pain of making people compete.

As far as who deserves what pay at what workplace that's much too subjective. I would just stick with politely agreeing with whoever is complaining, at a workplace I don't know about: 'I'm sure you're right' (but in one ear and out the other, how do I know?). And any system of humans is flawed. You can't realistically set the criterion as 'competition/meritocracy is fine as long as it's completely fair'. Of course it never will be, or even close to. That doesn't mean the alternative of not spurring people's efforts via competition is preferable.

On publishing people's compensation, that's also true of the top several executives at publicly traded companies (it's in their SEC filings you can bring up online), there's a lot of downside to that. It has a populist appeal in both those cases, public workers and top corporate people, but can have some significant negative side effects. In high executive/CEO case there's argument and evidence it tends to *increase* CEO pay since every one of them wants to be above average, so it spirals upward. For public employees I would just take the general position it's hard to have real competition in that sector, so just take it for granted it's not going to be very efficient and that's one reason try to limit the role of public sector workers in the economy as much as possible. Though certain things need to be done by public employees, and I guess it's a tangential discussion anyway.
  #30  
Old 09-19-2019, 10:39 AM
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I think basically everyone has thought about this at least implicitly, except some small number of people who assume (correctly or not) they'll always win out in competition, or the even smaller number whose feelings aren't hurt by losing.
This is it in a nutshell. Most people who push for "meritocracy" do so because they believe that, based off of some criteria, they themselves (or at least, other people that they like) would rise to the top. You don't see black people arguing that the NBA ought to be a representative sample of society; they're fine with it being 80% black. Many Asians are opposing affirmative action because it negates (to some extent) the higher Asian scores in standardized testing. You don't see handsome/beautiful/wealthy/charismatic people who have a lot of success in dating, arguing that dating and relationships ought to be a level playing field.

And that also encompasses some people who inflate and over-estimate their own merit. When they are not selected for a desired position, they will claim that the system isn't a meritocracy, rather than self-examining to see if they really had enough merit themselves in the first place.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:58 PM
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This is true, but it would be dumb for a challenger to challenge someone whose ability is close to theirs. Because let's say they outplay their rival and win their seat. There would be nothing to deter their rival from seeking revenge and retaking the throne. And around and around the two go until both are exhausted.

This may explain why challenges were so rare in my orchestra. You may think Becky sitting in the chair ahead of you is a weaker player than you, but it would only make sense to go after her if she were substantively weaker and not the revenge-seeking type. An arrangement like that might happen way back of the section, where the players tend not to give a fuck about chair positions. But it would be rare to find that kind of blatant unfairness towards the front of the section, where the more competitive types are.



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I didn’t know orchestras were so vicious. I’m just imagining crossing the cello mafia and getting the business.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:05 PM
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The cellos are pretty mellow. Its the percussion and tuba sections you have to watch out for.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:29 PM
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I have a minor example.

As a keen chess player, all team matches have the players seated in order of strength (so your best player plays their best player etc.)

Whenever new chess ratings were issued, the team order would change appropriately.
No complaints from anyone...
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:39 PM
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The cellos are pretty mellow. Its the percussion and tuba sections you have to watch out for.
Percussion especially.

I was present at this performance.

Last edited by 74westy; 09-19-2019 at 01:40 PM. Reason: Added quote for clarity
  #35  
Old 09-19-2019, 02:12 PM
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Meritocracy works for me because I'm not a naturally competitive person. Seems like a lot of work just for the privilege of always being a target. In a monkey world I'd be perfectly willing to let some other schlub be the alpha--and defend that position constantly--while I'm enjoying peaceful relationships and making it with all the lady monkeys because I've got time for them. Seniority is where I find myself at work these days. I don't have the highest output in terms of volume compared to the young'uns, but I also have a more accurate and useful work product because I made a lot of mistakes back when I was younger and more energetic. I spend a nontrivial amount of time double checking and avoiding the pitfalls you really only learn about by falling into them. I suppose it's a tradeoff in the quantity vs. quality balance. Even in situations where there old timers whose work product is neither better nor more than many of their counterparts, they often have value as experience resources. And then there's environments that are just poorly managed where the leeches are allowed to just suck because nobody has the moxie to crack the whip on them.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:03 PM
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I have a minor example.

As a keen chess player, all team matches have the players seated in order of strength (so your best player plays their best player etc.)

Whenever new chess ratings were issued, the team order would change appropriately.
No complaints from anyone...
Ratings are based on the results of matches, right? Not how someone thinks you move your rook? That's a case of a quantitative measure, and meritocracy works.
Ditto for sports where players are measured on stats.
  #37  
Old 09-19-2019, 03:11 PM
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In a monkey world I'd be perfectly willing to let some other schlub be the alpha--and defend that position constantly--while I'm enjoying peaceful relationships and making it with all the lady monkeys because I've got time for them.
Then you’ve missed the whole point of being the alpha. The alpha mates, the betas jerk off.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:37 PM
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The Atlantic had a recent article about how meritocracies are actually harmful, even to the "winners": https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...inners/594760/.

I guess there's no system that we humans can't fuck up.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:50 PM
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Then you’ve missed the whole point of being the alpha. The alpha mates, the betas jerk off.
Species-dependent bigotry. It's my metaphor, so I choose to be a Rhesus macaque.
  #40  
Old 09-19-2019, 03:55 PM
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That actually has all Texas public employees- from university presidents to county dog-catchers and municipal meter-maids.
  #41  
Old 09-19-2019, 04:49 PM
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Machine Elf, thanks for those links. I now know that I need never offer to pick up my brother-in-law's dinner tab again.
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Old 09-19-2019, 07:57 PM
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Robert Sapolsky has written extensively (and exceedingly well) about social rank and the physiological cost of maintaining or improving it. A Primate’s Memoir is the one you want:

http://movies2.nytimes.com/books/01/....01nixont.html

From the link above:

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Originally Posted by The New York Times
But the adventures that Sapolsky recreates in ''A Primate's Memoir'' are undergirded by a serious scientific intent: a study of male stress. Years of baboon observation prompt him to challenge the prevailing view that ''testosterone plus aggression equals social dominance.'' Instead, he deduces that in a stable hierarchy, low-ranking males -- the ones who fight most frequently over status -- exhibit higher testosterone levels (and are more prone to stress-related disease) than the dominant baboons. Moreover, regardless of rank, the lowest stress hormone levels among males appear among those that engage regularly in social grooming and other nonaggressive contact with troop members.

Ultimately, Sapolsky finds he has to factor in something as quirky as personality. Take the case of Nick: stressed-out, mid-ranking, type-A Nick. One day, trying to make a move up the hierarchy, Nick picks a fight with Reuben, who quickly signals defeat by sticking his bottom in the air. Nick pretends to play by the rules, which dictate that he saunter over for a victorious but noninjurious sniff. Instead, he gives Reuben a nasty bite across his peacefully raised buttocks. Sapolsky the scientist and Sapolsky the layman concur: Nick is one mean sucker.
So Nick is a petty, backstabbing jerk who achieved a Pyrrhic victory, unseating someone ranked higher but revealing himself to be an asshole in the process. I’m no musician, but surely every orchestra has a Nick or three.
  #43  
Old 09-20-2019, 11:18 AM
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Every year I got a statutory raise based on inflation plus, usually, a merit increase based on the chair's estimate. Sounds ripe for corruption and abuse, right? Well, all the chairs I had took the job seriously and really really tried to be fair. Certainly, there were no complaints. The one time I got screwed with no merit increase was when two of the department's stars had outside offers and the chair divided all the merit pay between them hoping to convince them to stay. The both left (predictably) and that money was permanently lost to the department. And of course, this meant my salary was permanently depressed by that amount (somewhere between $500 and $1000 a year) for the rest of my career.

That said, the possibility of a continual challenge does not seem healthy. Perhaps a challenge should be allowed once a year. I just don't know.
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Old 09-20-2019, 11:36 AM
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That actually has all Texas public employees- from university presidents to county dog-catchers and municipal meter-maids.
Everything's bigger in Texas - even the databases.
  #45  
Old 09-20-2019, 12:04 PM
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Fair enough. Why are your feelings affected by what other people make? Why do you even think about it?
Because we are social animals, and we have an innate sense of fairness. This is true whether it involves someone else receiving more pay for the same work, or the same pay for less work; it is, quite literally, natural for us to become angry at those responsible for implementing such unfairness.

We are not the only species that exhibits this trait. You will likely find this capuchin monkey experiment to be enlightening (and hilarious).
  #46  
Old 09-20-2019, 12:29 PM
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Good article on the problems with meritocracy in higher education.

Is Meritocracy Hurting Higher Education?
  #47  
Old 09-20-2019, 01:12 PM
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I favor a meritocracy, but am cognizant that a huge incentive is working toward making things a little easier for your kids. It's not fair, but I do it too. I think there should be limits to what "a little easier" means in the interest of society.

Nobody should be born without enough money to accomplish anything, and nobody should be born with so much money that they don't have to do anything.
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Old 09-20-2019, 01:43 PM
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I do not believe that strict meritocracies are socially stable.

Yes, you want the social structure to conform generally to a meritocracy so that the group members are motivated to contribute to the group effort. But within the social framework, if some members are mostly “winning” and others are mostly “losing” due to various disparities, the “losers” will stop engaging. This may result in a breakdown of the social structure.

For example, if you have very young children, you sometimes play games with them. If the game has any element of skill at all, as the adult, you will typically win. But despite this, sometimes you let the child win anyway because losing is no fun, and if they lose all the time, they’ll stop playing.

Gambling can be thought of in this context as well. Even in games of skill such as poker, most people lose at gambling. But the losers don’t lose all the time; the outcome variance is high enough that the overall losers do win occasionally. This variance from a strict meritocracy of skill sustains the games.

In the context of the workplace example, I don’t think a strict meritocracy is necessarily desirable. You want people to feel like they are being rewarded for their output, true. But as was alluded, you may also want a feeling of stability and reliability of employment. Or maybe you want to be free to pursue calculated risks at times without fear that any immediate failure will result in your dismissal. And certainly, you want to acknowledge that people are inherently fallible and can make mistakes at any time.

It’s debatable whether allowing some members of the group to occasionally coast on their prior accomplishments is beneficial or not; I assume it would be highly dependent on the situation at hand and exactly how much coasting is being done. But I don’t think you can assume that deviations from a strict meritocracy are necessarily bad; such deviations could have a positive social benefit.
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