July 6, 2008
Barack Obama and Equal Pay for WomenBy Selwyn Duke
What do you call a man who sermonizes about the evils of paying women less than men but allows that very practice in his own office? While a certain unflattering noun would leap to the mind of most, we can now apply a proper one: Barack Obama.
Although the Illinois senator has vowed to make pay equity between the sexes a priority in his administration, it has been revealed that he doesn't practice what he preaches. Writes CNSNEWS.com:
Now, some might call Obama a hypocrite. Isn't he guilty of the very invidious discrimination he claims plagues America? It's certainly easy to take this tack, and many on my side will have a field day doing so. Yet, such an analysis only qualifies us for a job such as, well, working in a leftist senator's office. Let's look a little deeper.
Treating this topic recently, I cited member of the fairer sex Carrie Lukas, who wrote:
I then added:
So it's entirely possible that Senator Obama is a sexist, misogynistic creep who gleefully rubs his hands together and laughs demonically while scheming to persecute his female employees. Maybe he has nothing better to do. But far more likely is that the aforementioned factors explain his office's inter-sex pay differential. Perhaps his male employees work more hours, have been more likely to accept promotions involving greater responsibility, have more experience, sacrificed "personal fulfillment" and instead chose more lucrative fields, and/or have greater seniority. Whatever the reasons, I'm quite sure of one thing: The phenomenon is attributable to natural, market-based factors and not a conscious desire to disenfranchise women.
Of course, I could nonetheless level charges of invidious discrimination in an effort to score political points -- just as the senator has done. Instead, though, I will extend him a fairness that he denies to the millions of American businessmen he demonizes through implication. That is the right thing to do, Mr. Obama.
Ironically, fairness is what leftists claim to want to achieve when issuing their feminist, 77-cents-on-a-dollar rallying cry. Yet this is an often ambiguous concept. "OK, Duke," you say, "you want specificity? How about equal pay for equal work?" Well, that's an interesting concept.
I once read that female fashion models earn three times as much as their male peers. Then, it's well-known that heavyweight boxers make more than lightweights. Would you support government intervention to ensure pay equity among fashion models and boxers? I mean, as for the latter, lightweights have to train as hard and also endure ruinous blows.
Of course, you might point out that to succeed in the lightweight division, you only have to beat lightweights, but to keep your teeth in the heavyweight division, you have to beat heavyweights, a more difficult task. So it's fair, isn't it?
I agree, but often fairness is reckoned very differently when the lower-paid group has been assigned victim status. For instance, in tennis, there long was talk about the "grave injustice" of offering female players less prize money at Grand Slam events. Yet it's the same as in boxing. Whether or not the women train as hard, the fact remains that to succeed in women's tennis, they only have to vanquish women, not the far stiffer competition on the men's tour. Thus, in either sport, it's ridiculous to rally for equal pay based on an equality argument because the systems are inherently unequal, in that both lightweight boxers and female tennis players are offered an arena in which to compete that excludes the best competition. Yet the competitors do have recourse. If lightweights want the glory and purses of the heavyweights, they can move up into that division. Likewise, if the women want the men's money, they should play on the men's tour.
Yet this doesn't explain the discrimination against male fashion models in an industry where all and sundry compete in the same arena. They all do "equal work," don't they? Perhaps, and this is the problem with advocating social engineering in the name of fairness.
What we earn has nothing to do with idealistic notions of fairness but is determined by the value the market -- our fellow citizens, in other words -- assigns to our labors. Is it fair that rap thugs and sports stars earn more than doctors and teachers? Is it fair that mainstream media propagandists who peddle the wage-gap myth earn more than an alternative-media journalist who tries to debunk it (well, that's not fair!)? Not just female fashion models but also heavyweight boxers and male tennis players earn more money for one reason, and one reason only. It has nothing to do with performing more arduous or impressive work but because the market values them more highly.
At the end of the day, the only question is who will determine wages and on what basis? Should it be 300 million citizens or a small number of politicians and bureaucrats, a market democracy or market autocracy? In other words, all of us, every day -- through what we buy, watch and show interest in -- essentially "vote" on what will get produced, how much people get paid, etc. Are we fair? Again, fairness is a hard thing to reckon. I can't boast about our embrace of shock jocks and reality television, but I will use a variation on a famous Winston Churchill line: Market democracy is the worst system in the world . . . except for all the rest. I'll take the "unfairness" of the market over that of pseudo-elite politicians any day. Now let's contrast these two models.
Actually, the market does in fact discriminate. It compensates those who work longer hours, accept greater responsibility and risk, prevail over stiffer competition, and/or have great "drawing power" more than those who don't, for instance. (This is why I used the modifier "invidious," meaning "likely to create ill will," earlier in this piece -- not all discrimination is created equal.) And, as I illustrated, certain groups benefit from this moral discrimination, such as heavyweight boxers and men. Then there are groups privileged simply because of what they are, such as female fashion models (however, "what they are" makes their employers more money). Now, I ask again, should the government intervene on behalf of lightweight boxers and/or male fashion models?
Regardless of your answer, a Big Brother market autocracy won't. What it will do is train its sights on only politically-incorrect targets, such as men. Thus, in the name of eliminating discrimination, statists are creating second-class groups which are told that they alone may not enjoy compensation commensurate with the market's assessment of their worth, simply because it's fashionable to discriminate against them. You see, when jockeying for votes by playing group politics, some groups must be cast as villains. And guess what, men, you're one of them.
Now that's what I call invidious.
Not surprisingly, this social engineering is already having an effect. In this article, writer Carey Roberts explains:
And this is just the beginning. The left will never acknowledge that men earn more due to legitimate market forces, and since trumping those forces isn't easy, expect more government action to achieve "fairness." I wrote about this in my piece, the one I cited earlier:
The implications of such government meddling are more profound than you may think, in that it harms women and children as well. As I went on to explain:
So we can choose the discrimination of the market's meritocracy or that of the statists' bureaucracy. I, for one, will settle on the people's determinations every time.
I say this even if they do sometimes give us things such as rap thugs, reality television, and Barack Obama.