Robinson on equality

January 9th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Martin Robinson writes in the NZ Herald:

New Zealand rugby players come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and both sexes. Players vary greatly as regards their skill levels, commitment and training schedules. Rewards for players are extraordinarily unequal, as most actually pay to play while a very few are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Is this fair or unfair? Should the Labour Party, the Greens or the Occupy Auckland movement campaign for more-equal payment of rugby players? Should the “greedy” All Blacks be forced to hand over some of their colossal income to the more impoverished fellow players? Should the Government intervene to reduce this glaring disparity in rewards?

Reducing the pay of All Blacks and spreading it among the less well rewarded rugby players, even if it is a good idea in theory, poses immense practical problems. Would the All Blacks agree to a significant pay cut? If they did, the team would become a 2nd or 3rd XV of players who were willing to play for the reduced reward.

We would never beat the Aussies, and maybe the All Blacks team would disappear. So the equality campaign would have succeeded in narrowing pay differentials, but at the cost of destroying the world’s greatest rugby team.

But the players would finally all be equal.

Inequality and the poor will always be with us. People vary greatly in their talents, work ethic and attitudes. Some people are lucky, others are unlucky. Whatever any government does, the lucky and hard-working will tend to be wealthier than the unlucky and lazy.

Every family is unequal. Both my brothers are much richer than I am, but I don’t envy them or think there is anything unfair about it. I don’t regard them as greedier than I am.

I am the poor relation. If I had worked harder, invested more wisely and spent less time on holiday, I would have more money in the bank, but they are the choices I made. I don’t regret anything so I’m content with our financial inequality. When I met my brother on holiday on the Gold Coast, I stayed in a motel-cum-backpackers while he stayed in the Sheraton.

He should have complained to the Government that his brother had been too successful.

New Zealand is an unequal society, just like every human society, just like every family. An equal society is impossible, an unworkable nightmare involving zero incentives and gross unfairness. Why should a cleaner be paid the same as a surgeon? It’s a ridiculous idea. I’ve cleaned toilets at the minimum wage but I don’t think it was unfair that I was paid less than when I was a teacher.

The All Blacks and some chief executives earn mega-salaries but they also pay stacks of tax. New Zealand’s tax and benefit system transfers many billions of dollars from rich Kiwis to poor Kiwis year after year.

In fact if you have a couple of kids you don’t even pay net tax until you earn around $55,000 or more.

The way to reduce poverty in New Zealand is to increase exports, improve workers’ skills and productivity, create more wealth and jobs, and then raise the minimum wage.

If New Zealand is becoming more unequal, the answer is for us poorer ones to work and save harder and smarter in order to even things up.

How outraegous. He has overlooked that it is all society’s fault.

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