Before the social and industrial revolutions of the nineteenth century, the merit came from military conquests and the discovery of new lands of other people.
Warrior societies such as the Spartan one selected the best young people to guide their armies based on their abilities and not on their belongings.
The strength of Rome was due to the fact that not only the patricians, but anyone who had the aptitudes could reach a command position.
The great Mongol Genghis Khan exterminated the defeated armies, but he spared the most talented enemy generals, offering them to lead his battalions.
Napoleon himself created the first order of merit, namely the Legion of Honour. When the game gets hard, there is no alternative to a true meritocracy, the need for merit and leadership grows and the resistance of the privileged people is overcome.
Now in Italy the time is ripe.