Meritocracy killed the eccentric.

Today it appears as though the Democrats are going to lose badly.  Among liberals, the criticism is that Obama has been overly cautious, ceding arguments to the lunatic right-wing.  That’s true.  However, as a product of the meritocracy,  Obama’s overly cautious nature was a necessary precondition to his success.

It’s been said that Obama should have been more like F.D.R., who famously said of  Wall Street, “They are unanimous in their hatred of me, and I welcome their hatred.”  But Obama isn’t bold in the manner of F.D.R., because the habits of thought and behavior he has had to adopt to succeed in the meritocracy have been the habits of extreme caution.

F.D.R., on the other hand, grew up in a privileged background in a distinctly non-meritocratic world.  That world was not “fair.”  (Although meritocracy, if you think about it, merely swaps unearned monetary advantages for unearned genetic advantages.)  But the advantage of the non-meritocracy is that it gives the privileged more room to be eccentric.

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