Monday, July 13, 2009

The Absurdity of "Fairness"

What is a "fair" wage? When we ask that question, the real question should be "fair to whom"? It is always someone outside the interaction declaring that this or that wage is or isn't fair. But what is meant by fair? Is the same wage for different activities fair? A coal miner should make the same money as a checkout person at Walmart? If it is not absolute equality, then how do you determine what is "fair"? Is $35/hour to mine coal fair, but $10/hr (or $1000/hr) unfair? How about $20/hr? Let's say you agree that $20/hr is fair, but no lower than that . . . so $19.99/hr is unfair? That's nitpicking, you say? Well, how do you decide, then? It boils down to an arbitrary decision. And it is, of course. That's why only those parties directly involved in the decision should be a party to that decision -- the worker (and perhaps his union) and the employer. The worker knows what his own labor is worth, what he is willing to work for, and the employer also knows what he is willing to pay to get that work done, with the pool of workers available. Those who wish to step in, who are not party to the contract being written, are essentially telling the worker that he's too stupid to know what's good for him, that he's treating HIMSELF unfairly. Can one treat oneself unfairly or unjustly? That's absurd on the face of it.

Of course, there are those who will argue that the employer is being unfair or unjust and is exploiting the worker. So offer the worker something better yourself. Give the worker options, rather than taking options away from him. If you really cared about "fair wages," you would start up a company and hire people at that wage. Or do you think you can get something more -- more money, more power -- by using government?
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