Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meritocracy and the Super Elite

I just wanted to pass this Atlantic article on the super-elite of the global economy. I found it fascinating, and think that you will too.

There are a few main points:
  1. Many of the super elite already recognize that the economy which created their wealthy is dependent on a functioning, open society. This recognition creates incentives (including social incentives within the global elite community) to engage in large-scale philanthropy.
  2. Ayn Rand's utopian withdrawal of the superman from society is a fiction. The global elite is a product of the market; even the gifted cannot transcend their origins entirely, especially when the mechanism of their elevation (wealth) is a social fiction.
  3. Transnational elite are looking beyond the borders of their home nations for problems to solve. America is not the primary beneficiary of American business success, though it certainly enjoys ancillary benefits. The resource allocation decisions especially among metrics-oriented philanthropy will tend to cluster around the low hanging fruit: drinking water, immunizations, and other public health concerns where infrastructure can be built from the ground up. Reform is a tougher nut, so don't expect many philanthropists to follow the Gates' Foundation attempts to tinker with American schools.
The competitive nature of philanthropy from the global capitalist set will be targeted into the same regions that make business investments attractive. They keyword is "emerging markets." Societies that require the least investment for the largest, most visible, and best measured returns are the most attractive.

Previously privileged groups (e.g. the American middle class) are not going to like this shift, but from a utilitarian standpoint, it seems like a necessary one. Charity dollars will be evaporating from American shores in order to assuage the guilty consciences of the global elite, funding more exotic projects abroad. Maybe American governments (local, state, and federal) will step into the breach and demand the resources to provide a higher standard of living to their constituents from the super wealthy.

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