The gender pay gap was covered in the Channel 4 interview with you in the UK and now governments around the world are addressing it in legislation, as is the Green Party here. You note that women’s general higher level of agreeableness accounts for maybe 5% of the variance in the pay gap – there are another perhaps 18 factors, one of which is gender. So if a woman and man are of similar age, ability, ambition, commitment, conscientiousness, intelligence, education, they should be paid the same, right?
No, actually if they’re under 30 the woman is paid more, if they’re both single. The question is, what do you mean by the same? Should people be paid for the same job? I suppose they should, but who decides which jobs are the same? This isn’t a small problem but an intractable one. The reason we have a free market is because it’s impossible to calculate which jobs are the same. If you run a restaurant and you have two short-order cooks you can be bloody well sure that the jobs they do are not the same. One might be a complete wastrel and a scoundrel you’re barely able to tolerate having on your staff, and the other one does the job of six people.
This is why it is best that employers can pay good staff more than bad staff rather than have paying everyone the same regardless of ability.
But the job’s the same. Who’s going to determine what constitutes the same? A giant bureaucracy, which would present a far bigger problem than the original? If people aren’t happy with what they’re being paid, they have all sorts of options: negotiate for a raise, look for another job, ratchet themselves up the pay hierarchy with careful strategic negotiation. The only reason the pay gap is trumpeted consistently is to buttress the argument that we live in an oppressive patriarchal society. If we do, it’s the least oppressive and patriarchal society that’s ever existed. I think the entire game is corrupt, that of dividing people up into their identity groups and then comparing them.
Can anyone point to a country and era that was less oppressive?
You say equality of opportunity is important, but equality of outcome is not possible.
It’s vital. Any society that doesn’t conduct itself along lines of equality of opportunity denies access to the talents of its individuals.
Equality of outcome is communism. Equality of opportunity is what we should aspire to.
Surely countries such as those in Scandinavia are proving that a free-market system is not better at reducing inequality?
Well, there’s far less unemployment in the US, especially among young people. America is an unbelievably diverse and complex society and the problems that they face are massive compared to the problems the relatively homogeneous Scandinavian countries face.
Scandinavian countries are still free market countries. And it is a valid point that their homogeneity has been a major factor. As this changes, they may also.
The Marxist types like to lay inequality at the feet of capitalism and the free market. But there isn’t a system of governance that human beings have ever invented, on the left or the right, that fails to produce inequality. Scheidel did an empirical analysis trying to determine whether governments on the right or left produce more inequality. The hypothesis he was testing was that left-wing governments would produce less inequality. He found absolutely no evidence for that.
Which is why the focus should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.