The curse of merit

After reading Sicilian Notes today I started thinking about the contrasting ideologies of socialism and capitalism. Generally I believe in free market capitalism but I’d like it to have a caring and compassionate side where the haves assist the have-nots through direct (charitable work and donations) and indirect (redistribution of wealth through taxation) means. I think this is compatible with a free market and it is suitable democratic and egalitarian that altruism should be greatly and freely practiced.
I think most socialists secretly aim for such a society but are wary that with capitalism comes the most dangerous set of beliefs ever conceived; meritocracy
A meritocracy is an organisation or society where rewards and status are achieved through open competition and where the achievements of the individual are therefore deemed to be deserved. The term was originated by Michael Young in his 1958 book the “Rise of Meritocracy” about a dystopian future in which a controlling elite are overthrown by the masses who feel that their lack of merit directly correlated with IQ and effort has rendered their opinions and lives meaningless. Much of altruism action is possibly based on guilt and a belief that someone is fortunate to be in the position to help others. Meritocracies denounce fortune so guilt and hence altruistic actions are greatly reduced. Indeed, the US which firmly believes itself a meritocracy tolerates a massive divide between rich and poor as, with effort and application, there shouldn’t be any poor , right? Wrong, social inequality is a fact of life and needs to be addressed in every society to ensure that opportunity is truely equal. Something that in the land of the free, it most certainly is not. Alexander de Tocqueville pointed out in his hugely influential work “Democracy in America” that associationalism spreads democracy. Unfortunately, it also spreads meritocracy and the very things which empower and inspire people to achieve their dreams, make it so hard for them to be achieved. As someone is always richer, smarter, more attractive etc., judging people on merit goes against Kant’s humanist principles and makes them into means rather than an end in themselves. For those living in the suburban slums of Paris, it’s a moot point whether unthinking socialism is worse than uncaring capitalism but you can be sure that it will take the compassion and altruism of both individuals and societies to improve matters.