Last week I gave Bryan Caplan a gift. Not being much of an egalitarian, I explained the gift on the grounds that he is extremely meritorious.
What if we generally gave gifts on the basis of sheer personal merit?
Most gifts are for "occasions," such as birthdays and Christmas. The value of the gift may be correlated with how the giver perceives the merit of the recipient, but rarely is merit the pretext for the gift. Perhaps a general practice of explicit merit-based gift-giving would create too many perceived slights. In contrast, when a holiday is the pretext and the value of the gift is (possibly) linked to merit, we can self-deceive and believe that a small-valued gift simply represents a cheap gift-giver, or a friendship of uncertain strength, rather than our own lack of merit.
But every now and then it is important to stand up to social convention and do what is right. Please give a merit-based gift — to someone who deserves it — sometime this month.