We’d like to believe we live in a meritocracy. This is part of the American myth we tell ourselves, that only the person with the best qualifications should be admitted to the college, get the job, etc.
However, we don’t start out on a level playing field. The circumstances of your birth gives you distinct advantages and disadvantages. Yet, for people who are born with many advantages, it’s very difficult to see how much those advantages have helped them. It’s just natural to tell yourself that you got where you are based on your skills, talents, merit.
I recently heard about an interesting experiment. Two people were asked to play Monopoly. But one person was given twice as much money to start as the other, and got twice the dice rolls in every turn. Later, when that person inevitably won, they would most often credit their win to better skill at the game or even a few lucky dice rolls. They hardly ever mentioned that they started out the game with an extremely unfair advantage.
We value equality, but when inequality is built into the game, how do we uphold that value?