Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Why Meritocracy Makes Us Miserable

Cameron Hilditch at National Review.

"The burgeoning ascendancy of the comparative mindset in the West fascinated Alexis de Tocqueville, who witnessed it coming to birth during the 19th century in post-feudal France and America:
'In certain areas of the Old World ... the inhabitants are for the most part extremely ignorant and poor; they take no part in the business of the country and are frequently oppressed by the government, yet their countenances are generally placid and their spirits light. In America I saw the freest and most enlightened men placed in the happiest circumstances that the world affords; it seemed to me that a cloud habitually hung upon their brows, and I thought them serious and almost sad, even in their pleasures. The chief reason for this contrast is that the former do not think of the ills they endure, while the latter are forever brooding over the advantages they do not possess.' [Volume Two, Part II, Chapter 13]
...It’s unwise to romanticize destitution and unfreedom, the evils and sufferings of which are clear and harrowing, but those who have traveled widely in the third world will at some point have witnessed the kind of uncomplicated contentment of which Tocqueville writes."

See Tocqueville, "Observations on American Life and Government" from Democracy in America, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volumen 6, and Democracy in America, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 44.

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