Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Merit beats “ocracies”


As far as you could see, among the endless lines of tents and waving standards, the broad maidan* was alive with foot battalions at drill, horse regiments at field exercise, and guns at practice — they were all uniformed and in perfect order, that was the shocking thing. Black, brown, and yellow armies in those days, you see, might be as brave as any, but they didn’t have centuries of drill and tactical movement drummed into ’em, not even Zulus, or Ranavalona’s Hova guardsmen. That was the thing about the Khalsa: it was Aldershot in turbans. It was an army. (Flashman and the Mountain of Light, p.58, Fontana Paperback edition, 1991)

tells us that constraints and barriers which stand in the way of merit are a problem since they favour the incompetent. Simple merit was the organising principle of the Kalsa as this passage (Wikipedia) shows:

The Sikh Army was strongly Punjabi with a predominantly Sikh and Hindu cadre but also had a significant multi-religious component made up from other parts of the Punjabi people: different religious backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and different tribal backgrounds: Pashtuns, Dogras, Khatris, Jatts, Nepalis and European mercenaries. A promotion to a higher military rank was based on military skill, not hereditary background, so was a classic meritocracy.

Competence then adds value providing merit can shine through irrational nonsense.


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