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Efficient and Fair Economy

April 18, 2011

As an American, I was born into a culture where extensive freedoms and liberties are commonplace; however, they seem nearly out of the ordinary when looking at the world as a whole.  Naturally, as I have grown up with boundless freedoms I have come to take them for granted.  This assumption has afforded me the chance to question the efficacy and justness of democracy and capitalism, while still imposing on them the same political and civil freedoms enjoyed in America.

As I read Marx and Engels, I couldn’t help but muse on these broad subjects.  As Marx discussed Communism, I found myself drawing comparisons between the two.  I am opposed to communism.  I’d think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the US who supports it, but on an economic level, I must admit I did not find it nearly as ridiculous as I thought I would.  In class last week, Dr. Lavaque-Manty asked us how we thought resources and rewards should be distributed in a just society.  The options were either equally, by merit, or by need.  I was in the overwhelming minority in choosing need.  I understand the appeal of a meritocracy, but the question got me to thinking why a Wall Street business man’s job is more inherently merit-worthy than a MacDonald’s cashier.  Yes, a broker could do a cashier’s job while a cashier couldn’t do a broker’s job, but a broker couldn’t necessarily be a farmer, nor an English teacher, nor a lawyer.  I came to the conclusion (and this is merely my personal belief as of this past week, so feel free to disagree) that there is no difference in the merit between two people putting in the same effort and work into a task, be it a cashier or a broker.

cave people cartoons, cave people cartoon, cave people picture, cave people pictures, cave people image, cave people images, cave people illustration, cave people illustrations [But caveman, you don’t have to be a lawyer, as long as you work as hard as one]

So I find myself aligned with neither the capitalists, nor the communists.  If it were possible to record the effort by people put into their jobs, I think an hourly wage system would be by far the best, however, this seems impossible, no matter how technologically advanced we get.  And in a economic system, where everyone gets paid the same amount no matter how they do (and there is not incentive to overachieve or even work at a satisfactory level, because there is no possible pay increase with a raise), there needs to be a way to monitor effort to pay workers on the basis of hours and effort.

[Garfield: hilarious, yet believe it or not, not the best co-worker.  How about “I can… and I will because I won’t get paid if I don’t”?]

However, as I said, it seems highly improbable a technology as such will be invented anytime soon, and I admit I am back where I began from, because without a way of monitoring this, capitalism does seem like the best economic system.


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  1. Chris J permalink
    April 18, 2011 10:08 AM

    I think you bring up a valid point, especially on how some jobs that appear useless or frivolous get paid much better than basic jobs that are just as hard or harder. The thing is, those brokers and wall street execs are highly educated and are responsible to protect and provide for the growth and stability of our market economy. Now this responsibility has been neglected by many of them, and that is unfortunate, but that fact still stands as justification for their obscene wages. No McDonalds could ever influence the economy like these people can. Also, to an extent they were already wealthy and were able to use their families wealth to put them in a position to get these high-paying jobs. Unfortunately this is part of meritocracy, using someone your close to who has merit to help you out.

    The fact of the matter is that Meritocracy just works. Sure some people who work hard lose out and get screwed, but imagine living in a world where no one could win out and move up in the world. Imagine a world where there was nowhere to even move up to! Why do anything?! Thats the problem with communism. Innovation gets stifled and nothing new or great comes about because “trying hard” earns just as much as being genuinely brilliant or talented at what you do.

  2. lapinsk12 permalink
    April 18, 2011 12:09 PM

    I understand your point and agree with it but some jobs have more worth than others. Take being the CEO of a major company and a cashier as you mentioned in your post. A CEO has a much more important job and requires a lot more hard work, schooling, and money to get that job and be somewhat successful at it than a cashier does with, maybe, a week on the job you’ll have mastered. The schooling needed and hard work it takes to become a cashier (which is very little and almost none, just be the first viable candidate for the job and it’s yours) isn’t comparable to what a prospective CEO needs to accomplish just to be considered for the job. Now the cashier may put 110% effort into his job while a CEO might put 70-80% effort into their work, but I say the CEO has earned the right to relax a little because getting there is a lot more work than a cashier will ever need at his job.

  3. Matthew Eller permalink
    April 18, 2011 11:36 PM

    Unfortunately, I don’t think any technology could stop this inequality. Part of the problem with Marx’s economy is that it clashes with natural human tenancies. There will always be some people who rise themselves above others and take control of resources. Some people don’t tolerate a lower-end lifestyle and one certainly cannot expect successful people to not secure success for their offspring. The cashier/broker example may be a bit of a stretch (a broker needs much more knowledge and initiative). Perhaps a better example would be two different kinds of lawyers (like a lawyer in a small firm vs. a corporate lawyer). Both might have a similar job, and they both have a lot of work. While I think the pressure of the massive transactions speak to the workload of the corporate lawyer, perhaps it is not enough to means such a dramatic difference in salary. However, I wouldn’t want it any other way, assuming I would want to be a lawyer, because the corporate lawyer is a very achievable goal that one can work towards.

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