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Basic Information

Meritocracy is a form of government where political power is based on proven ability. Usually, there will be exams and other tests before any given individual is granted more power, although at other times seniority is seen as the basis of merit.



Game and Story Use

  • Try to come up with all sorts of bizarre exams and tests of ability for your meritocracy - after all, ancient China based its exams for important offices on calligraphy. Possibilities might include:
    • Duels for a martial culture, with the most skilled warriors attaining the best positions.
    • Oral recitations of scripture - especially appropriate for highly religious societies.
    • Contests judged by the community, for a democratic meritocracy.1
    • See also: Technocracy (knowledge and technical skill), Noocracy/Geniocracy (raw intelligence), Kraterocracy (strength and martial ability), Magocracy (magical ability), Plutocracy (wealth), Gerontocracy (age/lifespan).
      • To some extent, forms not normally considered meritocratic may qualify: republic (charisma), demarchy (luck), machine politics (ability to make connections), or even aristocracy ("good breeding"). These may or may not be supported by any particular game system.
    • Whatever the culture defines as "merit" should have some bearing on common problems it faces; if this isn't the case, then the culture isn't likely to last long. For example:
      • If the strongest rule, the culture likely faces a lot of martial threats, whether invasions or rebellions.
      • If the knowledgeable, intelligent, or old/experienced rule, the issues are likely complex and require thoughtful approaches.
      • If the richest rule, the problems are likely to be those best handled with business skills such as trade or foresight.
      • If those with the best handwriting rule, this is probably a proxy measure for something else like education or manual dexterity.
    • Exams may be replaced by, essentially, a portfolio system where a candidate's ongoing record of achievement is the important thing. This, of course, requires even more adjudication and mechanisms for review.
  • Note that this has the potential to make for an extremely dystopic society as a functioning meritocracy is likely to require strong mechanisms for redistributing from the incompetent to the competent and, assuming a genetic component to competence as measured by the society in question, is likely to lead to strong, reinforcing stratification and little drive towards equality. The natural bent of a true meritocracy will be towards elitism.
  • When modeling a meritocracy of any kind, the leader(s) will almost certainly have a high level in whatever skill(s) or other stat(s) govern "merit". They're the best there is, or at least the best who wants the spot. Especially in a class and level system or a kraterocracy, this justifies authority equals asskicking.
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