The apparent practical success of capitalism is matched only by the failure of its public relations
The fundamental role of an economic system, even an extremely primitive one, is to assign responsibility and reward
a system of measuring merit should be efficient and difficult to manipulate, and above all, it should be deemed fair—or at least not too unfair—by most of the people subject to it. We can now begin to understand why support for meritocracy translates so neatly into support for the market system. Markets are far harder to manipulate than, say, a list of tenure requirements that an academic committee has created, or—to take a broader example—the decisions of statist regimes determining which lucky citizens get which consumer products. The market system has the reputation, too, of producing efficient results. And it doesn’t violate the prevailing notion of fairness too much.
Naturally, not everyone embraces the market system. Probably the reason that intellectuals tend to reject it is that it doesn’t reward what they think is meritorious: Lady Gaga makes a lot more money than Nobel laureates do. But in America, people largely accept the system—not merely because they think that it will deliver a reasonably efficient outcome, but also because they consider it mostly fair.