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Opponents of affirmative action and similar redistributive measures often argue that they proceed in defiance of the merit principlethe idea that scarce resources such as places in a law school class ought to go to those who most deserve them Since affirmative actions beneficiaries usually minorities from poor backgrounds often lack traditional indicators of merit such as top grades and test scores it is said giving them an edge in the competition for law slots violates the merit principle This chronicle subjects this argument to critical analysis examining the history and current functioning of conventional merit and noting a number of drawbacks associated with it