Hello! I’m Altino and I’m here to make the least controversial and most obvious statement on NationStates: everyone you know is a Meritocrat. If you know someone who by the end of this talk you recognize as NOT a Meritocrat, you should make sure that they have zero positions and zero power in your region immediately. They don’t deserve it.
Uh, Who are you?
Altino. I just said.
What is Meritocracy?
Meritocracy is, very simply, a system where regions specifically seek to invest in the success of competent people. These people are obviously talented as soon as you meet them. They are forward thinking, have their own goals and ideas, and can be counted on to follow through. Competent people may or may not be rich in experience, but they educate themselves before they decide to make a move on any subject, so they can be trusted to make sound decisions. They are the restless elite, with the determination and energy to get things done paired with the kind of refusal to fail that leads them to succeed even against the worst odds. Competency knows how to move a region forward, not just continue doing what has always been done, so they are invaluable.
Important to remember in Meritocracy is that the goal is to spot TALENT, not necessarily to spot EXPERTISE. There are regions with very old, very experienced players in positions of power who could not claim to be Meritocratic to save their lives because in those regions an old guard sits on power. That is not to say that this group never earned their power - indeed, at some point they likely were the best and the brightest - but where they diverge from the principles of Meritocracy is in a Meritocrat’s focus on present reality. Long time contributors to a region always deserve gratitude for their service, but they only deserve power for their service if it is present, active, and unquestionable. On the same token, there are regions who will never achieve stability because they will throw anyone willing to take power into position simply to keep those people around. They have no real goals or direction, they’re just trying to stay alive, and they think by offering new players power right at the front they can fill their positions and look like they have it together. These regions handicap their players by using those players to invest in themselves rather then using their region to invest in their players. They are never given the opportunity to learn, but instead get thrown to the wolves in a real sink or swim situation that lends entire regions to permanoob syndrome.
Meritocracy favors neither the young or the old. It instead relies on its own ability to invest time and attention on the growth of its people paired with an unbias that constantly evaluates its leadership to know when it is time for them to move on and when new opportunities should be given. Good Meritocracies realize that purposeful investments in your community are the most valuable thing that you can offer your region. It is equally as meritable to carry wisdom and insight on the game as it is to be a new and bright spirit. In either case, the goal of a Meritocrat is to directly invest in helping these players use their abilities to their highest positive potential - whether that means giving newer players an avenue to learn and an open door to explore their potential or giving older players an avenue to mentor younger players and an open door to demonstrate their skills. It is not important that you know the game back to front or that a bright, new face is a good look for a region. It matters that you are willing to learn and willing to put the work in. This is a Meritocrat’s most important consideration.
On NationStates, the general mantra for Meritocracy is “if you want it, earn it.” Disregarding historical contributions, nepotistic tendencies, and the urge to put new people in power just to keep them around, Meritocracy places power in the hands of those who are active, smart, and willing to put the work in. The beauty of the thing is that Meritocracy encourages these very traits from its citizens. Everyone wants to be King. If you know that you can only be King if you are the Best, then the Best is exactly what you will strive to be. Those content to forever remain worker bees will only ever be worker bees, because that’s all their efforts merit. Those who have goals for positive change in the region will be given a long enough leash to prove themselves and the best among them will be Kings indeed, because that’s what their efforts merit. A good Meritocrat will never tell you no when given a new or unusual idea – they will offer you the opportunity to make it work and prove yourself. If you can make it happen, a Meritocrat will not hold you back.
A Meritocratic leader knows their people and leads them in positive directions. Hard work and loyalty are rewarded with position, while stagnation is given a polite thank you and removed from service. Perhaps one of the most helpful facets that it has to offer, Meritocracy sizzles away burnout. NationStates is plagued with players who are at their wit’s end and totally out of energy, leading them to early retirements, frustration, and toxicity. Meritocratically guided regions purposefully avoid relying on a small group of people to survive, so the burden is dispersed more evenly across the region as a whole rather than on the shoulders of a handful of players. Still of course burnout will occur, but it is rewarded with a much needed break or given a new direction rather than begged to stay and keep working. Meritocracy prioritizes its individual players enough to let them rest when it’s time to.
Meritocracy Legally Applied
There is a misconception that only autocratic governments can include meritocratic systems. Autocratic leaders decide exactly who has power in their region with no room for argumentation, so it is easiest to establish meritocracy in an autocratic atmosphere, but these two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, autocratic governments can be extremely prone to unwise nepotistic leanings, which is strongly adverse to the ideals of meritocracy. Autocratic governments can also be prone to let people sit in a position long after they’ve ceased to merit it because in many cases there is no real avenue to get rid of government officials except by resignation or direct action from the autocrat. Meritocracy has no respect for how long you’ve been in office, it only concerns itself with whether you currently deserve the station or if someone else deserves it more. A competent and persistent leader can keep meritocracy alive in an autocratic region, but the second a dud comes into a power the entire idea dies out. In the same way, there is a misconception that democratically leaning governments cannot be meritocratic because elections mean that competency isn’t always guaranteed to win. Sometimes the popularity contest beats know-how. However, the ability to garner that kind of support is realistically it’s own brand of competence, and there is no reason that a group of people could not consistently elect meritable people. A community does what they think that they are “supposed” to and if it felt to them like they would be failing if they didn’t vote on merit, they would be more apt to think about these things. Is the idea of democracy to elect whoever has the most friends in a region? Of course not. Democracy ideally elects those who will do the best job and who have the best plan. That is meritocratic.
In my mind, there is no way to write meritocracy into law. My UCR, Karma, legally defines itself as meritocratic, but if we make unmeritocratic decisions there is no recompense for our actions. The most famously meritocratic regions may call themselves that, but they could never legally define a checklist or procedure for meritable leanings. Meritocracy is not a form of government. It is an idea socially applied to a region from the ground up to structure their decisions.
Meritocracy Socially Applied
If everyone is a Meritocrat and Meritocracy fits into every government system, why do we push so hard to make it a “thing”? The social application of Meritocracy - the very fact that it is a “thing” - is what makes it so special and effective. A community defines who they are and what is important to them by the culture that you offer to them. If you insist that your region is ruthless and bloodthirsty, when the opportunity presents itself people will go for blood every time. If you insist that your region is the most wholesome place in the world, people will make it their business to be the nicest kids on the block. If you insist that your region is meritocratic, people will make their decisions with meritocracy in mind.
More effective than any law could ever be, simply instilling the idea that we as a group rely on competency and that it should be rewarded can totally change the direction of your region’s thinking. A culture of autocracy says that whoever the autocrat places in charge is a fact of existence and should not be questioned. A culture of meritocratic autocracy says that the autocrat should only place meritable people in charge and if they don’t, we should be shocked by it. A culture of democracy says that the people have a say in things and if you win their affection you can have power. A culture of meritocratic democracy says that winning the hearts and minds of a population can get you so far, but once you’ve entered office you had better follow through on what you’ve promised, because proving incompetent is unacceptable. Meritocracy as a culture takes the best aspects of a government and demands that you be good at it. That you be the best at it!
If we are being honest, this is what every region wants for itself. None of us are asking that our regions be forced into stagnation by the poor decisions of whoever bestows power in our homes. We all have hope that the people who run our regions be competent, loyal, and active. We are all meritocrats. We are just not all effectively putting meritocracy into practice and thus not reaping the benefits of it. This can be remedied by just claiming your Meritocratic title and talking about it often. When elections roll around, demand answers. When a new cabinet member is appointed, ask for a game plan before anyone is allowed to start their work. Make sure that it is expected that you see problems and you have solutions to them if you are going to be in charge. Make competency a natural expectation for responsibility - and not one that you assume people know, one that you talk about and encourage often. Correctly applied social Meritocracy is a weapon that leads to shocking success. Since we are all Meritocrats anyway, you may as well.
So I’m a Meritocrat, then.
If you aren’t, then you should be. Meritocracy is not the circle of monarchic regions that seem really testy, they are the people who have taken the time to mentor you in the ways of the game. The players who have reminded you at critical moments that RL > NS. Those who have watched you reach the end of your rope and given you something new to be passionate about, so you felt like you were contributing and not letting anyone down. They’re the regions we felt most successful in, where putting in the work was fun and didn’t wear us out. These were atmospheres that were curated purposefully by people uninterested in power, who prioritized the success of their players first so that their players would insist on the success of their region. By simply taking the time learn where your players’ talents lie and giving them an opportunity to shine - and refusing, for that matter, to reward stagnation and permanoobs - you inch closer to the Meritocratic name every day. You may as well take the plunge.