Anyone who is honest and happens to be paying attention understands that The Meritocracy Myth simply points out certain truisms that slay the ghost of Horatio Alger beyond all recognition. Unfortunately as the book makes clear most people hold inaccurate views regarding what factors come into play that make one a plebeian and another a patrician.
With the precision and rigor of quantum physics McNamee and Miller put forth the facts, figures, research and interesting anecdotes in a scholarly and academic format that prove the system has been rigged for quite some time. For many citizens the notion of the so called American Dream has become a laughable bromide believed by only the starriest eyed idiot or naïve idealist. The authors are to be commended for writing such a forthright and controversial work that will surely cause some consternation on behalf of certain defenders of the myth. Because the book is so erudite and impossible to refute - and delivers a somewhat unpopular yet brilliant lesson - it's likely to be given short shrift in various forums (I do realize it's more of an academic text which automatically tends to limit its potential broad appeal).
A few of the fascinating social factors and class topics addressed throughout the work are: 1.) the effects of the staggered start with the rich kids inheriting not just boat loads of assets but also reaping the benefits that the best tutors and `good schools' have to offer; 2.) the studies demonstrating the more integrity a person possesses the less chance they have of ascending the economic ladder to a higher social class; 3.) the well researched sociological fact that by far the most important determinant of where someone ends up on the economic pecking order is where they began when they were born - the poor children end their lives poor, working class kids wind up working class as adults, kids born with a silver spoon stay wealthy their entire lives through no real effort on their part, etc.; 4.) the powerful role that just plain dumb luck has in the very rare occurrence when a poor, working or middle class person eventually becomes a Gates or Buffett. The authors also include a fine section refuting and debunking some of the nonsense and drivel espoused by the Bell Curve.
The book further goes on to dispel the absurd dime store wisdom held sacred in certain quarters that there is supposedly a `culture of dependency' and `entitlement mentality' running amok on behalf of welfare recipients and other underdogs. Government programs aimed at alleviating poverty very rarely foster any sort of dependency. Along these lines the authors detail a very well thought out plan that advocates progressive taxation, a wealth tax, substantive public works projects, and most interestingly class based affirmative action programs to largely replace the current and somewhat unpopular race centered affirmative action policies.
Just one very minor quibble: evidenced in a few quick passages toward the end of the book the authors imply that anti-Semitism still exists at some level in the United States and that it actually holds Jews back from achieving economic success. This is nonsense. Jews as a collective are one of the most successful groups in society; one can barely find a trace of any sort of anti-Semitism in America today (the extreme kook fringe notwithstanding). It's rather puzzling how the authors could make such an error in an otherwise studious and authoritative text.
After immersing oneself in the Meritocracy Myth it becomes evident that large structural social factors and outside environmental influences play an overwhelmingly dominant role in dictating an individual's life chances which are almost totally outside a person's capacity to wield any control. Of course despite what the research demonstrates in this sensational and enthralling book most Americans will still cling to the myth even as many of them are bounced around by the vicissitudes of life.