Are The Powerful In Business And Society The Most Able And Qualified?

Photo by Nick Morrison

Yes, and No. There is never a clear cut answer to questions like this because every situation is different. But in business, in particular, you can expect to see four types of merit, the higher up you go in the hierarchy:

  1. People who are skilled and qualified for their role. They would have worked their way up through the business, or already possess the experience and authority for their role. The key thing is that they got little outside help except through their own endeavours and impressing those who can advance them.
  2. Those who have benefited from tradition, inheritance and nepotism. They would include the children/relatives of the business owner, especially an enterprise that has been established for many years and passed down through inheritance to continue the family name, or to keep it in the family, like the Murdochs, the media magnates. It is difficult for outsiders to have real power in those businesses.
  3. Those who have benefited from gender/racial or any other kindred privilege. People tend to recruit in their own image and likeness, especially men who recruit other men which indirectly keep women out. We tend to employ people we feel comfortable with, and in the majority of cases, they tend to look and act like the employer! It means there are lots of people in power who are there by virtue of their colour and gender, and not necessarily through merit or qualifications.
  4. People who have benefited from exclusive groups like the ‘Old Boys’ networks. Wherever there is power, there will be groups that are determined to keep that power among themselves so that only certain people are accepted as suitable to hold such positions, like people who share the same college, university, sports team etc. All the privileged opportunities tend to be passed by word of mouth instead of being publicised, which ensures that only people of the same ilk enjoy the power and privilege of high status.