Fletcher: Trust those who earned their merit

There has been a word used recently in the popular press that has two meanings according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. That word is “meritocracy.” It means in the most popular usage: “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement” and in its lesser used way as: “leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria.” There is a huge difference between the two most common meanings.

The first meaning has to do with “achievement” whereas the second is about “intellectual criteria.” We all know examples of folks in both categories. The people in the first group are known by their accomplishments and are thought to be talented because of what they have accomplished in their careers or lifetimes. The second bunch is pretty smart based on test scores.

To be fair, the younger ones in the second grouping may migrate to the first tier based on their achievements but, perhaps, just haven’t lived long enough to have had time to have a large list of positive results. If you get told that you have been “educated beyond your intelligence” then maybe that’s just a way of saying you haven’t lived up to your potential as yet.

In the first meaning, you have shown your potential and have been moved ahead based on achievement. In the second, you have shown no achievement. I’ve stated that twice because it’s the very crux of a discussion being started by the major political parties relative to candidates.

Please note that a number of presidential hopefuls and presidents in recent times have been impressively educated and Ivy League bastions of Yale, Harvard, and Columbia. Many of the top advisers of government were schooled in similar centers of learning. All of these folks satisfy the second definition of “intellectual criteria” just by the fact they were able to gain admission to a prestigious university and successfully navigate their way to graduation. Many of them have only academic qualifications and no work experience outside of government or education. In the sense of creating job opportunities for others or competing in the “down and dirty” of commerce, they bring nothing to the table.

In the sense they have studied their subjects, they get an A+. In the experience of applying their knowledge, they receive an F.

My contention is that career politicians created Detroit’s mess. Who got hired to pull it out of the mess? The absolute quintessence to tough: a bankruptcy attorney. These guys make a living by giving financial haircuts to investors in stocks and bonds. They tend to be very direct folks from the judges in bankruptcy courts to the attorneys for both sides in the litigation. They are smart, tough, and results driven. They have achievement.

The point here is that if you see folks advising on how to create jobs for Northeast Michigan who are smart as anything but have never created a job themselves, maybe we won’t get any jobs. If you listen to guys like Bob Granum, Jesse Besser, or Tom Moran, then maybe you can create more employment in the north. Those guys have or had vision and achievement.

I didn’t mention the names of current business leaders who aren’t in the news much because the lack of press about them is probably by their design. It’s easy to get press but it can be a hindrance to long-term corporate planning. Most folks with good track records in our area are content with having their owners know that they are doing a good job running their companies and don’t see any good reason to share that knowledge. The fact they have had great achievements makes them leaders.

When we elect leaders, achievement is of greater value than education. Many have graduated from our most prestigious colleges and universities and some were fast tracked based on their accomplishments. Don’t confuse smart with capable. They don’t always go together.

A Meritocracy moves ahead the achievers. To promote folks based solely on intellectual criteria is much more chancy. Be selective when you vote.