12 December 2016

Meritocracy in China

Less than ideal evidence nonetheless suggests that modern Chinese civil servants, continuing an ancient Chinese tradition, are competent and talented.
For a while I have been arguing that China is much more of a meritocracy than many outsiders (or for that matter insiders) believe. You have to distinguish type I from type II error; the princelings do unjustly well but smart people from rural areas are elevated at fairly high rates. Most important jobs are filled by very smart people. Therefore I am happy to see this new paper by Margaret Boittin, Gregory Distelhorst, and Francis Fukuyama:
. . . . We surveyed over 2,500 Chinese municipal officials on three organizational features of their bureaucracies: meritocracy, individual autonomy, and morale. They report greater meritocracy than U.S. federal employees in almost all American agencies. . . .
There are other interesting results in the body of the paper. The only U.S. federal agencies with higher meritocratic self-assessment than the Chinese mean are the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the SEC, the OPM, and Education. Homeland Security, Agriculture, and HUD do the worst, with the performance of the branches of the military being poor as well . . . . You will note that Chinese civil service jobs are highly coveted, and on average there are fifty applicants for each slot, making those jobs more exclusive than Ivy League universities.
From Tyler Cohen.

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