Meritocracy and Democracy

Meritocratic Ruists make two basic claims: first, that meritocracy is more historically faithful to Ruist tradition, and second, that it makes for a more effective government. In particular, it can avoid the problems of democracy, among which the ignorance and short-sightedness of voters are prominent. The claim goes that since voters generally understand the issues poorly and are unwilling to sacrifice their immediate interests for future gains, democracies make bad decisions. Without getting into whether these criticisms are accurate for the moment, I’m curious what people think of this line of argument against democracy. If it were true that democracy inevitably has such problems and there were good reason to think meritocracy would do better, would you support meritocracy?

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"Growing Pains" and Chinese Philosophy

At dinner at a recent conference I had a very interesting conversation with Liu Qing from East China Normal University. He told a few of us how the television show Growing Pains (starring Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron) had made a big impression when it was shown in China. For many children at the time, it was their first acquaintance with parents who reasoned with their children instead of just giving orders. He said the younger generation (meaning now people in their late 20s or 30s) began to ask their parents why they couldn’t be more like the parents on the show and explain their position to their children instead of expecting to be obeyed all the time. They began to question the parameters of the parental relationship they had grown up with and ask for more equal treatment

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Daniel Bell on Meritocracy

Jiang Qing and Daniel Bell’s op-ed in the New York Times attracted a great deal of interest. Bell published another op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor a couple of days ago on the broader subject of meritocracy. This can illustrate how he differs from Jiang. I’m assuming he didn’t choose the headline (“What America’s flawed democracy could learn from China’s one-party rule”). The comments are also quite interesting.

Bell op-ed

On Research: How Chinese Should Chinese Philosophy Be?

I’d like to do a little informal poll on two questions relating to research and publication on Chinese philosophy. I welcome your responses.

First, what do you think of scholars who can’t read primary sources publishing on Chinese philosophy? Is being able to read original sources important? I should perhaps clarify that what I mean are not the “translations” one sometimes finds (e.g., of the Laozi) by people who don’t read classical Chinese, but scholarly articles or books.

The second question concerns use of secondary literature. My own observation is that Western scholars, even those who read Chinese, often don’t refer to Chinese secondary literature. By “secondary literature” I mean specifically 20th and 21st century academic work, not traditional commentaries. I’m curious why this is and what other people in the field think about it. Is it a problem? Or is it instead a sign of the development of the field, that we have our own English-language debates just as specialists in ethics might have debates about Kant that don’t refer to the German literature at all?