I recently came upon an article by Daniel Indiviglio published in The Atlantic that put forth an interesting idea for combatting wage inequality. It immediately caught my attention as it stands out from most ideas for improving wage equality. Generally, ideas put forth to limit these disparities involve taxation and redistribution, or government mandated minimum wages. Occasionally there are even calls for some form of oversight or controls on the highest wages, as was the case with Wall Street bonuses following the economic meltdown. What almost all the generally proposed solutions have in common is that they all require the government to infringe on individual’s rights to their property. While the vast majority of people, myself included, have no problem infringing on these rights to some extent, a solution that does not require increased taxation or limiting individual’s rights to accept certain wages would be preferred.
So what exactly is this proposed idea? In one word, information. More specifically, publicizing information on wages and benefits for all jobs, and even potentially for individuals. The basic logic behind this is that individuals require information in order to act. Because compensation tends to be kept quiet, it is difficulty to negotiate for better compensation or to know if changing careers might be a better option. By providing people with information equivalent to what their employers already know, they can see if their wage is too small relative to what others make, and then either negotiate for increased wages or find another job.
While little empirical research has been done into this, there are still many reasons to think that it might have some effect. The few job markets that do tend to have widely available compensation information have very high wages and a tendency for employers to go out of their way to ensure that their compensation remains competitive. These two job markets, Wall Street bankers and CEO’s, both have strong and continually improving wages.
It would be silly not to recognize that there is a large difference between the job markets for CEO’s and those for minimum wage level jobs, and it is highly unlikely that this information alone would dramatically reduce the discrepancy between these two groups, but better information would likely put some pressure on companies that hire workers around minimum wage to compete on wages as anyone looking for a job can see if McDonalds is paying a little more than Wendy’s. From my personal experience at entry level jobs, people tend not to look for new jobs until they find out what sort of wages they could make in similar jobs. If that information was widely available a company would have trouble keeping compensation below any other similar company.
While doing some research into this I discovered that Finland actually does something similar to this. Income tax information is made public for the majority of people. Finland also has relatively little inequality although this is simply one data point and does not strongly suggest causation.
Regardless of what you think about the government’s proper role in health care, the recent bill that passed the House of Representatives in the U.S. is not good. It amazes me how many people, many of whom are otherwise good skeptics, will either praise the bill as an amazing achievement on its own merits, or say that it is a step in the right direction. Both of these positions are nonsense unless you support a bill that will raise costs for most people, and force people to buy insurance coverage even if they can’t afford it, all while bringing more revenue to the health care industry. Sounds like a great step in the right direction!
This fact sheet, released by Fire Dog Lake, is probably the best description of why this bill really isn’t good for anyone (except maybe shareholders in the big drug and insurance companies). I would highly recommend that everyone reads it over (it’s pretty short) and then reads through some of the sources. Hopefully it will give everyone a factual foundation from which to base their opinion rather than from the rhetoric produced by the politicians.
It seems that the Texas Board of Education has started another round of silly curriculum changes. In the past they have done their best to put evolution into question, and now they are going after history.
It seems like the primary purpose of their changes is to stop teaching the history of the philosophical ideas of a separation of church and state. Probably most bizarre to me is their plan to ignore Thomas Jefferson. It seems incredibly odd to ignore a figure of such importance to the founding of the United States of America in American classrooms. It would be like our classrooms in B.C. ignoring John A. MacDonald.
There are however some changes that seem perfectly fine to me (if I accepted the idea that government control over what children learn is a good thing, but I am taking that as a given right now). Some of these changes seem to have a lot of the left-wing blogs (like the linked Huffington Post article) angry. The curriculum will now refer to the U.S. as a constitutional republic rather than a democracy. Why? Because the U.S. is a constitutional republic moreso than a strict democracy. There also seems to be some concern over how history class will now examine the devaluation of the U.S. dollar and the abandonment of the gold standard. How are those topics bad? Why shouldn’t we explain to our children the effects of an inflationary policy. $10 in 1913 buys roughly what $218 does now. If you look simply at the expansion of the money supply it is even worse.
The political arena is sometimes a harmful place to decide what children learn.
On the Radio Freethinker blog I wrote about the difficulties of looking skeptically at politics, and about why, despite the difficulties, skeptics shouldn’t ignore political decisions, even if they don’t relate to traditional skeptic areas of interest.
On this blog I plan on addressing economic and political issues much more frequently than we do on Radio Freethinker. With political issues I will do my best to look at them as objectively as I can, but outcomes that I think are good might not be to others. When I write these posts I will try to make clear what my premises are.