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The new assault on meritocracy

Ibram X Kendi: not a fan of exams. Jason Mendez/Getty

The modern idea of meritocracy is “threatened as never before”, says Adrian Wooldridge in The Spectator. On the right, populists rage against “airy-fairy liberals who don’t know the price of a pint of milk”. Meanwhile the radical left is waging a “woke assault on meritocracy”, with the aim of replacing it with “a new social order based on virtue, rather than ability”. Under the new hierarchy, the more oppressed groups you belong to, “the more moral virtue you possess”. Colour blindness is dismissed as a con: “standardised tests to measure aptitude and intelligence”, writes the “anti-racist” author Ibram X Kendi, are “one of the most effective racist policies ever devised”.

Rather than IQ, what helps you get on in this new world is WQ – “woke quotient”. US professors must submit “diversity statements” when they apply for jobs; Bain, the management consulting firm, celebrates “Womxn’s History Month”; the NHS employs “lived experience” tsars on £115,000 a year. Morality aside, the problem with all this is that it’s so bad for economic efficiency. Meritocratic societies are far more productive than non-meritocracies: Singapore is more productive than Sri Lanka; the Nordic countries are more productive than Greece and Portugal. If we replace “the aristocracy of talent with the aristocracy of woke”, we’ll end up with an economically stagnating, “increasingly divided and embittered society”.