"They make too much money !"
"People shouldn't be allowed to make 10 million dollars a year."
"How can any person be worth that much ?"
You hear these complaints again and again, against pro athletes, rock stars, CEOs (especially of those big bad pharmaceutical companies - how dare they make medicine !), and other multi-millionaires. The "argument" being that these people are just like you and me, and so they should make as much as we make. That there is somehow something morally outrageous about making more money than most people. That there should be class jealousy, and perhaps more class warfare.
But what does this really mean in economic terms ? Most people do not make their money by stealing it from other people (except politicians, but few people complain about their salaries - they even defend politicians by comparing them to athletes). They make money by selling or helping to sell a product - music albums, tickets, jerseys, whatever. And people pay for these products because they perceive them as being of value. Athletes and singers make their money because they contribute much needed entertainment to people, and these people appreciate it and buy their products.
So then the question arises, how much contribution to people's values is too much ?
Seen from this individualist perspective, the complaints against high salaries are absurd. How can we fault anyone for contributing too much to society ? And more importantly, how can we blame them for consumer choice, something they have no control over ?
At best, an anti-individualist could argue that his values are better than everyone else's and that he wouldn't buy such products, but his values are irrelevant to those of the other people in a given society. People will hold the values they want, and express them in the way they want, and it's the role of the free market to help them do so.
Calls for class warfare, therefore, are misguided. It is not against "the rich" that they are really fighting, but against their "fellow classists" who go to the arena, buy CDs, and watch shows on television. In essence, they are against individual values, because individual values do not promote their classist agenda.
Either way, it is the connection between salary and people's values, which is obvious if you look at the situation in individualist terms, that they are failing to grasp. Salaries are not taken out of thin air. They depend on revenues, which depend on spending, which depend on values. If no one was interested in sports, then no one would go to the stadiums, and no athlete would make money. It is, in fact, a testimony to Western civilization that we have attained such a level of prosperity that we can devote so much money to entertainment !
"Social justice" is not to be found in the greedy power-mongering and kangaroo courts of the statists. Coercion is not just. The only social justice that exists, must be based on cooperation and non-coercion. This is because justice consists of getting what one earns, and not getting the unearned - this applies to trials but to other aspects of life as well. By trading, people deal with each other by value. But when coercion exists, the strong and powerful will always take what the masses earn and use them for themselves, sometimes using them as a tool of manipulation, unearned resources for the taking of this or that interest group.
The free market, therefore, is true social justice, where you receive resources and popularity proportionally to the perceived value of your contributions, and give proportionally to how you perceive other people's work. That is the only just principle. That is the only way society progresses and the only way the masses can work for a better life. It is, in fact, the only principle that has ever yielded progress or equality. The opposite principle - that a ruling class should establish itself by force and redistribute resources to further its aims - has never produced anything but tax slavery, war (financed by tax slavery) and suffering (thanks to war). You shall know them by their fruits !
Sunday, March 26, 2006
"They make too much money !"