Selecting vs. grooming

by [anonymous] 2 min read30th Jun 201519 comments


Content warning: meta-political, with hopefully low mind-killer factor.

Epistemic status: proposal for brain-storming.

- Representative democracies select political leaders. Monarchies and aristocracies groom political leaders for the job from childhood. (Also, to a certain extent they breed them for the job.)

- Capitalistic competition selects economic elites. Heritable landowning aristocracies groom economic elites from childhood. (Again, they also breed them.)

- A capitalist employer selects an accountant from a pool of 100 applicants. A feudal lord would groom a serf boy who has a knack for horses into the job of the adult stable man.

It seems a lot like selecting is better than grooming. After it is the modern way and hardly anyone would argue capitalism doesn't have a higher economic output than feudalism and so on. 

But... since it was such a hugely important difference through history, perhaps, it was one of the things that really defined the modern world because it determines the whole social structure of societies past and present, that I think it should deserve some investigation. There may be something more interesting lurking here than just saying selection/testing won over grooming, period.

1) Can aspects of grooming as opposed to selecting/testing be steelmanned, are there corner cases when it could be better?

2) A pre-modern, medievalish society that nevertheless used a lot of selection/testing was China - I am thinking about the famous mandarin exams. Does this seem to have had any positive effect on China compared to other similar societies? I.e. is this even like that it is a big factor in the general outcomes of 2015 West vs. 1515 West? Comparing old China with similar medievalish but not selectionist (but inheritance based) societies would be useful for isolating this factor, right?

3) Why exactly does selecting and testing work better than grooming (and breeding) ?

4) Is it possible it works better because people do the breeding (intelligent people tend to marry intelligent people etc.) and grooming (a child of doctors will have an entirely different upbringing than a child of manual laborers) on their own, thus the social system does not have to do it, it is enough / better for the social system to do the selection, to do the testing of the success of the at-home grooming?

5) Any other interesting insight or reference?

Note: this is NOT about meritocracy vs. aristocracy. It is about two different kinds of meritocracy - where you either select, test people for merit (through market competition or elections) but you don't care much how to _build_ people who  will have merit vs. an aristocratic meritocracy where you largely focus on breeding and grooming people into the kinds who will have merit, and don't focus on selecting and testing so much.

Note 2: is this even possible this is a false dichotomy? One could argue that Western society is chock full of features for breeding and grooming people, there are dating sites for specific groups of people, there are tons of helping resources parents can draw on, kids spend 15-20 years at school and so on, so the breeding and grooming is done all right, I am just being misled here by mere names. Such as the name democracy: it is a selection process, but who wins depends on breeding and grooming. Such as market competition: those best bred and groomed have the highest chance. Is it simply so that selection is more noticable than grooming, it gets more limelight, but we actually do both? If yes, why does selection get more limelight than grooming? Why do we talk about elections more than about how to groom a child into being a politician, or why do we talk about market competition more than how to groom a child into the entrepreneur who aces competition? If modern society uses both, why is selection in the public spotlight while grooming just being something happening at home and school and not so noticeable? (To be fair, on LW, we talk more about how to test hypotheses than how to formulate them. Is this potentially related? People are just more interested in testing than building, be that hypotheses or people?)