As a Populist, I am usually in the forefront advancing ideas and policies that further the interests and well-being of the common-man, whether he be a member of the working or lower-middle classes. Although I still stand committed to these principles, I often look at issues from other perspectives, to see if there might be wisdom that could be gleaned. And there is no issue more sacred and revered in America, at least among the so-called "Great Silent Majority," than that of "meritocracy." Although meritocracy, and one's support of it, is one of the major cardinal articles of faith for Americans, one that precedes the Founding, we often fail to take a critical look at it. We always assume that the consequences and results of "meritocracy" are all good, and that the only negative consequences are those that accrue from an opposite system of promotion and occupational rewards and incentives. Let me be clear: I support meritocracy. That being said, I think there are some interesting side-effects of meritocracy that often go overlooked. Chief among these is something I call the "Vacuum Effect."
What is the vacuum effect? The vacuum effect is the vacuum of competence and ability that emerges in the service, blue-collar and lower-end occupations and vocations, as a result of having high numbers and rates of bright, talented, skilled folks with initiative of all social classes, flee or be averse to these professions. The result is that these professions and occupations experience a brain drain, the result of which adversely impacts the vocational professions. At the worst, the skilled vocational professions are more susceptible to being overwhelmed by the Lumpenproletariot.
500 years ago, the carpentry profession had equal shares of bright, brilliant people as the medical profession, or the masonry profession, or the newspaper profession and the like. The rigidity of the class system, and the requirements that sons inherited the occupations of their fathers, ensured that each profession had a static-claim on the bright, the dull and the mediocre. Granted, this could cause problems, as when morons became doctors and generals, but on the other hand, very bright individuals served as plumbers, engravers and carpenters and contributed great things to their profession and v0cation.
Because bright folks couldn't "escape" their class or inherited occupation, they were forced to pursue professional meaning and occupational self-realization through occupational/vocational excellence. Ergo, the carpenter would innovate and develop new procedures, styles and techniques that would revolutionize the industry. Same goes for the other occupations.
An unintended result of meritocracy is that while all the best and brightest flee the old occupations and professions and perhaps even their socio-economic class, their old socio-economic classes, and the vocational professions suffer as a result. What impact does this have on community development? 500 years ago, a bright, responsible intelligent person could easily become the leader of their small, working-class community. 100 years ago this was also the case. Today, all these "gems" flee their community and a vacuum of competance, intelligence and ability results. The poor boy of merit, rather than being a big fish in a small, working class pond, invariably finds himself as a small fish of limited means in a big pond filled with bigger fish with vast sums of inherited wealth and connections. Worse, the socio-economic and vocational vacuum left by his upward mobility and advancement is filled by the "lumpenproletariot," which can degrade the quality of services, vocations, occupations and the like. The lumpenproletariot, for those not "in the know," is the group of people below the working class, who would be outcasts even among the working classes and peasantry, people who would be shifters, shirkers, criminals, social parasites and the like. (Marx also said that they serve the interests of the Elite, by providing them with vice, from profiting off of the latent hypocrisy of the system; he said they were, perhaps, even greater enemies of the Proletariot than the Bourgeoisis, because Proles were susceptible to thinking they were comrades with the Lumpenproletariot, when in fact, their interests were diametrically opposed: the Lumpenproletariot doesn't want to change the economic or social system, he merely wants to profit off of it, in the shadows).
Could the brain-drain on the working-classes and lower-middle classes have the effect of "empowering" the Lumpenproletariot, such that they come to dominate the working and lower-middle class professions, occupations and vocations?
Also, is immigration a solution to this problem, as you are more likely to find intelligent, honest, balanced and hardworking working-class and lower-middle class laborers from Mexico than among the American Lumpenproletariot? Is this another factor feeding into the immigration phenomenon we are now experiencing?
I only write this, because I had a conversation with an acquaintance a while back. He was a racist, nativist American and loved Glenn Beck. He only hired white American laborers to do his household repairs, lawn-work and the like. However, he often got screwed by these people. He found that the white laborers he hired, outside the Union, tended to have criminal records, drug problems and the like. They tended to be dishonest, did poor work, and would often not even show up. Then my acquaintance hired Mexican workers, and none of these problems emerged. The Mexicans were professional, honest, hardworking and courteous. They displayed all of the work ethics and virtues of the traditional working and lower-middle class. There were no lumpenproletarii among them. Why is this?
How widespread is this? 60 years ago, the labor-sector was not over-run by the Lumpenproletarii, but today it is. Perhaps our perceived "problem," with immigration and "low-quality" American labor is not a problem at all. Perhaps it is just a natural, unintended consequence of a dynamic, where the forces of the meritocratic and class-systems interact?
Perhaps our need for blue-collar immigration, in some ways, is due to the brain-drain and "competence drain," on the working and lower middle classes, such that we need the working classes of other nations, in order to fill the vacuum, rather than see our service and labor sector flooded with the members of the lumpenproletariot?
(BTW: Of all the orders of society analyzed by Marx, the Aristocracy and the Lumpenproletariot were the ones he critiqued the most).