American do not wish to reward birth, they do wish to reward intelligence. Unfortunately for Americans – and for egalitarians world over – birth and intelligence are closely connected, socially and perhaps to some extent also genetically. This is the paradox of equality in America and the cause of much soul searching among American egalitarians. It would be no great exaggeration to say that the modern American obsession with intelligence is like the traditional Hindu obsession with purity; and the fact that intelligence is – or merit – cannot be defined any better than purity does not make the obsession less acute. As the redoubtable Arthur Jensen had written some 30 years ago, “Intelligence, like electricity, is easier to measure than to define”; and so, American go about measuring intelligence with vengeance. And as to merit, even those academics who declare that it is ‘underdefined’ need must spend a fair amount of their time sorting their students and colleagues out ‘according to merit’.
— EPW, Nov 10, 2001