Diversity

The myth of political merit

There is much current debate around gender quotas in politics. The popular case against quotas says that politicians should be chosen according to ‘merit’. Outside of politics this makes sense – you want the best doctors operating on you and the best lifeguards patrolling your beach etc, regardless of other superficial characteristics. But when it comes to politics, these commentators are calling for something other than the best politicians. ‘Merit’ in politics means playing the political game most effectively, as measured by whether you win. The ballot box victors are by definition the most talented individuals that society has to offer, in that particular pursuit.

In the fairly-tale version of politics, people like to imagine politicians doing things other than politics: ‘running the country’, ‘managing the economy’, ‘representing the people’ and other such inanities. Less euphemistically, we could say interfering in people’s lives, meddling in the economy and shilling for … Read the rest

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