The right kind of hierarchy is beneficial, the wrong kinds aren’t. The right kind is meritocratic, a fluid system arousing out of talent, experience and effort, like the hierarchy in a well run corporation. Any departure from this  system is ipso facto less efficient. For instance, the most efficient way of apportioning educational resources is towards those most capable of benefiting from them. People who call for hierarchy are usually calling for return to a more rigid, less meritocratic pattern….the kind that is based on class,  race, gender or other group characteristics. The kind that squanders the talents of the low-status in favour of “upper class twits”. We don’t know how many potential Einsteins spent their lives as goatherds because that’s what they were born into. (It’s no surprise that the West took off so quickly in the last 300 years or so: it was a virtuous circle , with wider education supported economic growth, and economic growth being ploughed back into increased education. It’s also no surprise that the few traditionalistic societies that can compete are bouyed up by resource wealth).

In fact, non meritocratic hierarchies have a double problem. They are not only inefficient because they don’t put the best people into jobs, they are inefficient because the hierarchy has to be maintained with an expenditure of effort in terms of force (“Guards, guards!”) and propaganda (“God bless the King”). Meritocratic hierarchies are the only ones that seem fair, and therefore, the only ones people will support voluntarily: no one complains that the only people with the right to operate in brains are qualified brain surgeons.

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