This column was prompted by William Galston’s review of Tyler Cowen’s new book Average is Over. Galston’s column worries about the huge, permanent underclass that Cowen envisions will grow in the United States. I write to challenge Cowen’s assumption that winners will prevail through a process of “hyper-meritocracy.” Cowen’s embrace of Social Darwinism assumes that the winners have a selective advantage that arises from “merit” – which Cowen conflates with the ability to create wealth. This is passing strange as we are still suffering from an orgy of wealth destruction led by the “winners.” The people who grew wealthiest were often the people must responsible for the largest destruction of wealth in history. In this first column I show that it is the most anti-meritocratic system. We do not live in a “winner-take-all” Nation. We increasingly live in a “cheater-take-all” system.
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