There will come a point in every conversation in which you challenge someone on the inherent biases in any purportedly merit-based system at which its defenders will point out that the winners in said system are very talented and work very hard. The motivation for the winners in any system or institution to believe this is strong, as to believe otherwise is to admit that one's own success is a function of luck or other non-meritocratic factors.
Perhaps it is correct that the winners in life win because they are talented, smart, and hard working. In my brief life experience, though, I've always found it odd that the people who have influential connections always end up being the most talented, smartest, and hardest working people.
Life has a lot of coincidences.