IQ and the meritocracy

In IQ in the Meritocracy, Richard Herrnstein’s set out his four-part syllogism regarding the link between inherited differences and differences in SES:

  1. If differences in mental abilities are inherited, and
  2. If success requires those abilities, and
  3. If earnings and prestige depend on success,
  4. Then social standing (which reflects earnings and prestige) will be based to some extent on inherited differences among people.

Herrnstein’s argument is that equality of opportunity is inversely proportional to equality of outcome, given that the more equality of opportunity there is, the more impact genetic differences will have on where people end up:

Greater wealth, health, freedom, fairness, and educational opportunity are not going to give us the egalitarian society of our philosophical heritage. It will instead give us a society sharply graduated, with ever greater innate separation between the two and the bottom, and ever more uniformity within families as far as inherited abilities are concerned.


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