A traditional set of kitchen scales
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Is meritocracy 'just luckocracy'?

The US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, has told student at Princeton University that meritocracy, the idea that the most talented people will succeed is, in effect "luckocracy".

Journalist Toby Young, whose sociologist father Lord Young coined the term meritocracy, told the Today programme's Evan Davis that "all good socialists had a duty to oppose this bogus source of legitimising inequality".

He added: "An argument made by John Rawles is that we don't deserve our natural abilities, so a society in which our status is determined by our natural abilities is no fairer than one where we inherit them."

Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, believed meritocracy leads society to believe they are owed when they aren't: "People feel they deserve it (wealth) as they work hard, but don't people who work in care homes or look after elderly relatives work hard?"

"It's not about working hard, it's about working hard plus luck and plus opportunities that you had, that you did nothing to deserve," she explained.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday 6 June 2013.

  • 06 Jun 2013