In my extensive travels I recall one curious country where economic and political opportunity and status was strictly allocated by height. Tall people received advanced education and managerial jobs, and the seven footers usually became CEOs. The President of the country was, of course, pushing 8', the tallest man in the country. Short people became janitors and sewage workers.
I remarked to one of the citizens that this arrangement appeared... well... somewhat counterintuitive. He angrily retorted, "What would you have us do? Cut all the tall people off at the knees?"
Of course not.
When I condemn elitism, I am not condemning the fact that people have different abilities and skills. I understand that some people are more industrious than others. I realize that these many of these differences in skill and character have real economic consequences. Being against elitism is not to endorse the idea of making everyone the same. I am against elitism in the sense of being against socially constructed differences in political power and economic wealth.
The primary arguments in favor of elitism are wrong.
The primary argument is that the (innately) "superior" create more value and therefore deserve membership in the (socially constructed) "elite". But as we see time and again, a truly free market does not strongly correlate individual reward to the creation of excess value: excess value becomes more-or-less equally diffused throughout the entire society.
It's also impossible both to unambiguously determine who is actually adding value. Who is responsible for creating the excess value of the plow? The person who makes the plow, or the person who uses the plow to actually grow food?
Value itself, subjective and variable, is itself impossible to determine unambiguously. What is the value of a pound of food? If you're starving, the value of a pound of food is infinite; if you already have more than enough to eat, it's negligible.
In the most extreme case, there is perhaps a hundred-fold difference in individual skill and character that have direct, physical economic consequences; it is implausible to believe there is more than a thousand-fold difference. The difference in actual wealth, however, is many orders of magnitude higher. The idea that people with great wealth innately "deserve" that wealth — by virtue of creating it directly — is clearly ludicrous.
The second argument is that by creating a meritocracy, a set of social constructions that amplify the rewards due to innate skill and character, those with superior skill and character will have an incentive to use their abilities at least to some degree for the mutual benefit of everyone. This is not a terrible argument, but the limits of meritocracy are easy to determine. Economic wealth is a form of indirect political power, and political power — direct or indirect — is a privileged position to shape our social constructions. People who become wealthy and powerful for whatever reason have an obvious incentive to reward being, not becoming, wealthy and powerful. The tendency of every elite in every society to "shut the door behind them" is universal and without exception.
Furthermore, just because people have economically useful skills and abilities does not mean they are wise and intelligent in other matters. All socially constructed elites tend to correlate their power with peripheral non-economic characteristics: race, religion, and, of course, familial relationships. Argument: George W. Bush. Case closed.
The only argument for elitism is the ecological argument: Where you have prey, you will have predators; "there's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him". But this is most definitely not a moral or ethical argument.
So, no, when I argue against elitism, I am not arguing that individual differences should be erased. I argue, rather, that we should not amplify (even at best) these individual differences to economic and political privilege.