Shikha Dalmia and Bryan Caplan Debate Merit and the Market


In a column last week, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia argued that "markets don't reward merit. They reward value." At Econlog, George Mason University economist (and Reason contributor) Bryan Caplan took issue, posting a lengthy critique which argues that "on the free market, value and merit are highly correlated, so markets reward merit after all." The debate picked up again today with a reply from Dalmia, who argues that "the market rewards brilliant ideas, not brilliant people."

Go here to read Dalmia's original article, go here for Caplan's critique, and go here for Dalmia's response.


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  1. ToMAYto, toMAHto.

    1. +1 and I am sticking with Ford

      1. Thought I was still on the Toyota thread.

        Oy Vey!

  2. Two vulgar libertarians arguing…yawn.

  3. Guys, there is nothing to reward: The market is just the network of free and voluntary exchanges. An exchange is only between two parties. A person that exchanges labor or a service for a good is receiving something he values MORE than the labor or service he provided, and the person giving the good in exchange does so because he values the good LESS than the service he received.

    So, the person whose labor is being “rewarded” is not really receiving a reward, he is simply having an agreement fulfilled by the other party. This has NOTHING to do with merit. It DOES have to do with the VALUE the other party perceived.

    So, all market actors SEEK value – they exchange VALUE. So Shikha Dalmia is technically correct.

    1. That’s fine as long as the person is not a [boom, boom, boom] CORPORATION!

  4. And brilliant ideas aren’t highly correlated with brilliant people?

    I think it’s a pretty silly argument to have, regardless.

  5. Dalmia’s mistake seems to be equating intelligence with merit.

    1. The 1st comment on the article beat me to it.

  6. Merit smells like morality. Value is what it is.

  7. I could read a debate between two dullards, or I could hit myself on the head and call it a day.

    1. Here’s a 2 Lb sledge hammer . . . Be my guest.…..B000CZ3WDK

  8. This can’t be happening! Chat said that libertarians never disagee, and that we are locked into groupthink.…..nt_1570772

  9. In the market, value is merit.

  10. Thank you J sub D, Sam Grove, and others, for stating the obvious, that value & merit are damn near the same thing, and that it was silly for Dalmia to write an entire article about it in the first place, and then silly for Caplan to respond.

  11. But at minimum it was Dalmia who started this senseless hair splitting — if in fact that’s all it amounts to. But I’m not convinced given what she wrote.

    But markets don’t just expand and democratize the concept of merit; they render it moot.

    And this means precisely what? We might get more of a clue from what she follows with:

    It matters not a whit that the lid maker is a drunk, wife-beating, out-of-work painter who stumbled upon this idea through pure serendipity when he tripped over a can of paint. Or that the computer whiz is a morally stellar Ph.D. who spent years perfecting his chip………Hard work or some quality of character would offer a more palatable basis for building a case for markets, except that all the lowlifes who routinely make it rich in markets offer too much evidence to the contrary.

    Which sounds very much like she’s arguing, that you’re just as likely to get rich by being a drunk idiot, as you are by becoming — well, anything else at all.

    Which is plain and pure bullshit.

    She’s either spawned bullshit for the sake of an argument that fundamentally stupid before it go to the starting gate — or else she does in fact believe things that are bullshit. Her words strongly incline me to believe the latter.

    But anyone who wants to bet their life on the idea that an idiot-drunk-wife beater is as likely to succeed as anyone else, is of course free to take their own advice.

    Dalmia is famous for coming up with nutty stuff.

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