Karl Smith suggests that perhaps it’s all a matter of numbers. That is, with sufficient numbers in the system at least one person will win the lottery. And that one person will be sure that his or her achievement is the result of personal virtues, even though it can best be explained by random selection.
To expand the thought, the problem of a meritocratic system is that those inside naturally believe that they have achieved by their own efforts, even if the circumstances are in fact random.
This, of course, is not much help to those of us would-be strivers. We want our accomplishments to be from our own efforts. And that in turn is the mystery of it, only by surrendering the sense of “I earned it” can we actually begin to possess. To have means not to hold, etc. Life, in other words, is a gift. And a life of giftedness creates a politics very different from that generated by the notion that one has “earned” it. Very different.