Philosophy Cafe: Democracy, Technocracy or Meritocracy?


Democracy, technocracy and meritocracy are different ways of making decisions within, or distributing the resources of, a society. What system should we use?

Start Date

1st May 2018 6:00pm

End Date

1st May 2018 7:30pm


Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston

RSVP / Contact Information

Enquiries: Graham Wood, 6324 3920 or

Democracy, Technocracy and Meritocracy are different ways of making decisions within, or distributing the
resources of, a society.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is democracy or technocracy a better way to make (all or some) decisions in a society?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these options?
  • Is basing the distribution of resources on ‘merit’ the best way to distribute the resources of a society?
  • What place (if any) do moral values have in guiding decisions in a society?
  • Assuming that moral values do have a place in decisions in a society, would a democracy or a technocracy or a meritocracy do a better job of furthering any moral values relevant to decisions in a society?
  • Are the particular values of individuals a good guide to making decisions about society as a whole?
  • Should there be limits to democracy (or technocracy or meritocracy)?
  • Should ‘rulers’ act on the morals that are endorsed by individual citizens for themselves, or different morals?
  • What is the role of moral principles in policy decisions?
  • What principles should be used to guide social policy?

The darker side of meritocracy and technocracy?

If a society was ordered along meritocratic principles how far should that extend.

Consider the social unit that is ‘the family’. If a family has control of a certain amount of wealth, it is usually
the case that ‘the family’ gets to decide how to distribute that wealth. For example, the parents may choose to
invest the family’s wealth in the children. But a meritocratic system might not allow that. The wealth of the
parents might be taken away and given to children of other families that might be more deserving based on
merit. Is that taking meritocracy too far?

Could technocracy be too paternalistic?

Imagine a possible future in which psychology as a science has advanced to such an extent that psychologists
can accurately predict what will make an individual ‘happy’ and these psychologists (because of their technical
expertise) are the people who set constraints on individual choices. Would this be a better way to organise the
lives of individuals?

Philosophy Café
Royal Oak Hotel – Launceston
On the first Tuesday of each month (excluding January and February)