For some reason my Collins dictionary wouldn't reveal it, but the word meritocracy was invented by Michael Young in his book "The Rise of Meritocracy" (by the way, he is also the guy who invented open university). On the other hand, the dictionary would provides a transparent explanation of the meanings of the
1. rule by persons chosen for their superior talents or intellect.
2. the persons constituting such a group.
3. a social system formed on such a basis.
Whereas the idea of choosing the leaders of the society on the basis on their "talent or intellect" sounds great, the application of this principle seems badly missing in most of the modern democracies. The majority, as sadly known, is not always right, and can hardly ever be described as talented or intellectual. The same often goes for its anointed.
The main obstacle in the way of the direct implementation of the meritocractic principle is the lack of an objective measure of "intellect". IQ tests? Hardly something can be less objective. IQ tests usually require knowledge in specific areas, and it's hard to tell whether they form a good basis for choosing a ruler. What is worse, giving power to IQ tests means giving power to the man who produces the IQ tests, and there is no control over his work. Unless, of course, his work would be regulated by the government, in which case the ruling faction would be able to prolong its rule indefinitely.
I herby offer my own idea of an objective method of rating "merit", for the purposing of choosing meritocractic leadership. You are to judge how truly objective/appropriate the method is. Essential to the method are technological means allowing comparatively fast processing and transfer of large amounts of data through a symmetric (with respect to its users) and a highly hack proof network. One can try adapt the Internet for the purpose, but probably distinct hardware would be required. Also important is the participation of a sufficient amount of people, so enough statistics of the relevant kinds can be collected.
The principle is a global contest, in which each of the participants may enter a certain amount of questions (with given "correct" answers) into the system. Different kinds of question formats can be tried: multi-optional, open, even special programs designed as games or puzzles. The participants are then asked to answer some randomly chosen questions. The more questions a given contender solves during a given amount of time, the better he does in the competition. Then, the system starts sorting the questions using two criteria:
1. Questions that display low statistical correlation between time-of-thought and probability of solution gradually stop being presented to contenders (they are marked meaningless).
2. Questions that display high statistical correlation between time of thought and probability of solution are time-of-thought are rated based on their average solvability. Contenders which do well are presented with questions of higher and higher rate and vice versa.
One can justly note the majority of the population will have hard time designing sophisticated, clever questions. Academic institutions and other organizations will be able to provide "question banks". The general orientation of the particular question bank will be made public before the contest, but not the particulars of the questions, of course. During the contest, participants will be able to view the questions in the bank and use their "votes" to insert them into the system.
Eventually the contest ends and the participants are assigned "places". There are two approaches to how the results of the contest are actually used:
1. "Absolute meritocracy". In this approach, the meritocratic contest replaces the democratic elections completely. Part of the participants mark themselves as contenders for the parliament a priori, and a given amount of leading places out of the contenders who did so will be made the parliament automatically. 1st place then becomes the president of the meritocracy. The newly chosen parliament is given time to debate and discover its own political views, after which it is free to rule the state. This approach is rather radical, and it is easy to imagine how it can put an extremist in power.
2. "Electoral meritocracy". In this approach, the places achieved in the meritocratic contest determine the respective weights of the citizens in the followings elections. It is then important to protect the confidentiality of the results of contest as safely as possible, thus defending the most influencial citizens from threats and other forms of pressure. The elections themselves are democratic from all respects except the unequal power of the voters.