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Hierarchy: The Necessary Consequence of Competence
By Godwin Nwaokike In Life & Meaning On 2020/09/16
We have problems in our society, plenty of them. And we would like solutions to those problems. These solutions are implemented socially with other people. In relation to a solution, people cooperate and compete and that produces hierarchy. Why? Because no matter what the problem is, some people are going to be better at solving it than others. If we want to act intelligently for our own good, we will put the people who are good at solving the problem at the forefront because they will get to solve it better, faster, and cheaper, and everybody benefits. But we now have a hierarchy where the most competent ones are at the top.
Some people who seem to advocate for the poor may not be doing that out of love for the poor but hatred for the rich. They feel the rich have too much – jet, mansions, big businesses. If the rich are rich because they are tyrants, then there are grounds for protest and serious issues have to be addressed. But it is not always the case that the rich is a tyrant.
Financial wealth is an incentive. We want people to solve problems that are hard to solve for the good of everyone and we want the people who are good at solving those problems to keep solving them. They will keep solving them even though they are difficult to solve if they are rewarded. Those who solve very hard problems are incentivized to do so by a huge financial reward. The idea that there should be innovation without incentive is ridiculous. It does not work that way and human beings are not wired that way. If some human beings are going to work really hard, there has to be some sort of reward which will not be equal for everyone. I call this justice.
So, a hierarchy is produced but we have to be awake because those at the top after acquiring resources and power can degenerate into tyrants to lock themselves in that position so that it is no longer competence but political machinations and tyranny that produce positional differentiation. We have to stay awake to that and make criticisms when necessary so that those within the hierarchy stay honest. We also have to be careful because when a hierarchy is set up a lot of people congregate at the bottom, a consequence of a few people collecting at the top.
We have to be concerned about the people at the bottom. One way to express that concern is to have a variety of hierarchies so that people of different talents can play different games and have a chance to be at the top. A complex society is good at this. But even after creating a lot of hierarchies, there are still going to be people who collect at the bottom of all hierarchies. There are going to be people who are physically or mentally sick, cognitively impaired, or experienced some kind of catastrophe in their life. We want to set up a system so that these people do not suffer unduly. Apart from the fact that their undue suffering is not good, it can destabilize the entire society. Some people have to speak on behalf of the unjustly dispossessed who have to be cared for. I call this mercy.
Justice and mercy help stabilize society.
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