Obama Stumps against Unions and the Minimum Wage … OK, Not Really

“for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” – Matt 12:37

President Obama has been out and about pressing the common liberal message of “equal work means equal pay.” (Most  notably in the state of the union speech, but also in press events since then.) We’ve touched on the subject before. Liberals don’t mean what they say with this catchy slogan.

Mathematically, the notion that “equal work means equal pay” simply means that “work” is  the only factor that can be considered in remuneration. And, of course, by “work” we don’t mean the physical definition of “force times displacement” – rather we mean something like productivity. Thus, equal productivity for equal pay means only that productivity is the only factor that can be considered in remuneration.

If you use a person’s gender in determining pay, then you have violated the construct. Of course, if you use something like “years of service” in determining pay, you have also violated the construct. Can we assume then that the president has come out in opposition to standard union practice of pay-scale that is based on tenure, not on productivity? One suspects he would balk at this notion. By your own words you will be justified …

Beyond this, the notion of equal work means equal pay logically implies that pay should be proportional to productivity. If you build twice as many widgets as I do in the course of a day, then you ought to expect to be paid twice as much. But, if this holds, then we must conclude that the president is also opposed to the minimum wage. After all, the minimum wage demands that a person be paid a certain amount irrespective of productivity. Of course, it is possible that the president would protest, demanding that he also supports the notion of a minimum required productivity before one can be employed. I’m not saying he has said this, or that it makes any logical sense at all – I’m simply offering the president every plausible defense of his illogical positions.

In the end, I very much support “equal pay for equal work” and I also support “payment proportional to productivity” (and I am more than willing to allow payment based on expected future productivity). But this is a notion despised by liberals and progressives; the notion that people are paid in proportion to what they produce, and only what they produce – not based on race, gender, or years of service. Furthermore, a strict proportionality between pay and productivity (or expected aggregate productivity) leads us to a difficult question (for liberals at least): who gets to determine the value of your productivity?

Who gets to determine whether the seven widgets you produced today are worth an equal amount to twelve bookcases produced by another person? Is there a table somewhere? Is there a universal constant relationship between widgets and bookcases? Between cars and houses? Between algorithms and book chapters?

I offer that the best solution is to let every man decide for himself. Let every man (or woman) decide if he would like to buy or sell widgets at $22 a piece, or $23. Let every man decide if he is willing to make a bookcase in exchange for $15 or $16. Let every man decide if he is willing to exchange the week of his life it took to write a chapter in a book for the week of another man’s life that it took to build a shed.

Equal work means equal pay, and the value of work is determined by each man. Ah yes, this means only one thing: the free market. Perhaps the president is coming around to the cause of freedom. Or, perhaps, he’s just using a catchy slogan.

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