The meritocracy has nothing to do with actual merit. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
The American Left has decided that the so-called meritocracy is a bad thing. In a typical example from the Los Angeles Times this week, Nicholas Goldberg points to a number of issues exploring how merit is not actually the key to power and riches in America:
The United States is supposed to be a meritocracy. The story goes that if you work hard and play by the rules, especially with regard to education, you can compete, rise and succeed here. . . . But Americans are realizing that’s not always the case. The playing field just isn’t level.
Goldberg claims that the much-lauded meritocracy is less about merit and more about controlling access to elite institutions. It’s hard to argue with some of this. It’s easy to see the lie behind the claims of meritocracy when we look to the very top of the artificial hierarchy. It’s likely not a mere coincidence people like George W. Bush and Al Gore—a son of a US president and a son of a US senator, respectively—went to elite Ivy League schools. All of Al Gore’s four children, and one of Bush’s, went to Harvard. To think that these seven people got into these schools because they had more “merit” than all the rejected applicants requires gargantuan levels of credulousness.
Much of the Left’s rhetoric against the meritocracy has been in the service of justifying racial preferences and standardized testing in university admissions. Defenders of the status quo have subsequently fallen all over themselves to support the supposed meritocracy of the government-university complex. For example, Victor Davis Hansen, in a meandering and unconvincing article, recently attempted to blame the United States’ repeated foreign policy failures on an alleged decline of meritocracy. Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz insists that today’s law schools are full of mediocrities—unlike when he and his friends filled elite universities with untrammeled brilliance.