Nov 6 - Freedom Center Colloquium Series: Ryan Muldoon


Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:30 to 13:45

On Thursday, Nov 6, Ryan Muldoon, Senior Research Fellow of the Philosophy, Politics & Economics Program, University of Pennsylvania, will be giving a talk in the Freedom Center Colloquium Series.  The title of the talk is "Meritocracy, Equality of Opportunity, and Social Cohesion:  Pick Two."  (Abstract below.)  More information about his work can be found at his website:

Thursday, Nov 6, 12:30-1:45pm, in the Kendrick Room at the Freedom Center, Marshall 280 (right above Paradise Bakery).  Feel free to bring lunch.

For further information, please visit the Arizona Freedom Center at


A variety of liberal theories share a belief in the importance of several political desiderata.  Meritocracy has near universal support, both as a practical method of distributing resources, prestige and office, and as a moral claim about who is deserving of the social surplus that we generate.  Likewise, the equality of opportunity is embraced both as a means of ensuring fairness, but also as a justificatory support for unequal distribution.  When paired with meritocracy, we can argue that unequal rewards are directly tied to unequal effort and skill.  Finally, though liberal theories may tolerate social divisions, they tend to value social cohesion: a shared set of values and practices that provide the background framework for supporting a system of social cooperation.  I argue that these three desiderata, though each individually desirable, cannot be mutually satisfied.  In particular, I argue that meritocratic systems that are socially cohesive will result in a matthew effect, generating outsized rewards for small differences.  This undermines the equality of opportunity.  I argue that the best resolution to this trilemma is to drop social cohesion as a desideratum.

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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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