A privileged adolescent may see the street sweeper and wonder why he is paid less for his job than is the doctor. As the sweeper's job is both essential and disagreeable, perhaps, this young philosopher might muse, he should be paid as much, or perhaps even more.
This is Marx's vision: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,* taken through one permutation, and substituting merit for needs. For today we may view the notion of Government determining "needs," as naive-who would not exaggerate his needs if simply to do so would gain him more governmental largess? Further, we may, in our enlightenment, see that everyone has different needs-one may wish more leisure, another more pay, et cetera. But "merit" is equally is an equally subjective concept, and, like need, its acceptance as a tool for the determination of desert merely empowers the judge.