Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column at National Review Online suggests one key factor in American society that will help us fight decline.

Even in its third century, America is still the most meritocratic nation in the world. Unlike under the caste system of India; the class considerations of Europe; the racial homogeneity of China, Japan, or Korea; the tribalism of Africa; or the religious orthodoxy of the Middle East, in America one can offer a new idea, invention, or protocol and have it be judged on its merits, rather than on the background, accent, race, age, gender, or religion of the person who offers it.

Businesses evaluate proposals on the basis of what makes them lots of money. Publishers want writing that a lot of people will read. Popular culture is simply a reflection of what the majority seems to want. In the long run, that bottom line leads to national wealth and power.

If history is a guide, the most savvy Chinese citizen of Japanese descent would not make it as a high official in Beijing’s Communist Party — no more so than a brilliant Japanese citizen of Chinese descent would run Toyota or Honda. A white Croatian of enormous talent could not end up as president of Sudan.

Mexico has a word, Raza, that conflates race and nationality, in the way that the German word Volk used to suggest not just being German, but looking German, as well. I doubt that either country would ever elect a black head of state.

It would be virtually impossible for the most talented Christian or Jew to be allowed to head contemporary Egypt, or for a brilliant four-star Buddhist general to run the Iranian military. For the immediate future, don’t expect a female business-school valedictorian to manage Saudi Arabia’s national oil company. Note that in all these cases, such exclusions derive from criteria other than innate talent, character, and industriousness, and can result in the lesser qualified being considered the only qualified.