In response to Psychoanalyzing the Left:
Ace – like a lot of cherished lefty ideas, meritocracy (with wise elders bestowing credentials on the deserving) began with good intentions. Ancient China had civil service service exams as far back as the Han Dynasty (200 BC), as a bulwark against nepotism and favoritism. And, lest we forget, Plato was pretty cool with the whole idea of philosopher kings.
Insofar as academia exists as an incorruptible meritocracy sorting hat, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. Similarly civil service; large private sector enterprises maintain their own meritocracy systems as well. But you know what they say about the plans of mice and men; “meritocracy” frequently ends up every bit as corrupt as what it was instituted to prevent. Nobody puts more stock in flashy academic credentials than China, and look at the results.
The problem with meritocracies is the merit of the meritocracies themselves. Siwash State might credential you as a fully board-certified Gender Theorist, with a 3.7865741 grade point average, measured under the most stringent, syllabus-specified criteria. But if you’ve got to move back to Mom & Dad’s basement, it doesn’t matter how fair your exams were.
With so much psychological (and financial) investment in obtaining credential, it’s easier to rail against the “unfairness” of somebody making a fortune off, say, a pet rock, than it is to question the value of the credential.