Equal Pay at the Oscars

I happened to catch part of the Oscars on Sunday night, which included a speech by Patricia Arquette, whom I wasn’t really familiar with before then.  At the end of her speech, Arquette said the following:

“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

The camera then showed Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez cheering on her message.

I really have nothing against Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) outside of her ignorant political/ economic views.  She has obviously been very successful in her career as a singer, performer, actress, and judge on American Idol.

J-Lo’s body and her other talents make her over $30 million per year.  Forget equal pay for women.  I would like equal pay with J-Lo.

This whole equality thing is ignorance at its best.  It is ignorance of economics.  In a free market society, wages will tend to reflect worker productivity.  Calling for equal pay for women is about the equivalent to calling for equal pay for short people or fat people or ugly people or nerdy people or unathletic people.  It is collectivism.  In the case of women, it is trying to group together over half the population of the country into one.

The problem (which really isn’t a problem) is that nobody is equal.  Everyone has different talents.  Everyone has different wants and needs.  Everyone has different goals.  Most chess players are men and most chess tournament winners that aren’t exclusive to women are men.  Do we need different rules of chess for women?

Of course, it should be obvious that many women have different goals in life.  There are a lot of working mothers who want more flexibility.  They don’t want to work late hours in an office because they want to pick their kids up from school.

So even if you compare people in similar occupations, the comparisons still aren’t fair.  You can compare all lawyers in the U.S., but maybe there are more women lawyers who accept lower pay for the benefit of having more flexible hours.

It is also not surprising that in some occupations, men will simply perform better than women.  The reverse is true in other occupations.

And what about sports?  Professional men basketball players earn far more than professional women basketball players.  This is because there are more people interested in watching men play basketball.  You can’t blame this on the employers.  You can blame it on the customers who determine the advertising revenue and ticket sales.

In a free market economy, wages will tend to reflect productivity.  This doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect and exact.  Some workers may be giving their employers a break by not looking at other jobs and seeing what the market will pay.  But overall, there will be little or no wage gap between workers with similar talents and productivity.

If women are equal in productivity in everything (which we know isn’t true), and they were truly being underpaid, then employers would be rushing in to hire them.  If you can pay a woman $15 per hour to do the same job just as well as paying a man $20 per hour, even the most sexist of employers are probably going to prefer to save money and pay the woman less for the same productivity.

But this is why there cannot be a big differential.  Because another employer is going to pay the woman $18 per hour and another one will pay $19 per hour.  As long as the woman let’s her skills be known in the marketplace, the wages are going to reflect her productivity to employers.

Ironically, there may be one situation where there really is unequal pay for women, even with similar productivity and talents.  This can only come about in a controlled economy that is not free.  This can happen when there are government favors, government bailouts, and central bank inflation.

These government interferences prevent the market from working.  This leads to situations that we see with bank CEOs making millions of dollars, despite overseeing near bankruptcies if it weren’t for government bailouts.

But – and I’m just guessing here – I don’t think Patricia Arquette was advocating less government regulation and an end to central banking when she was promoting equal pay for women.

Maybe Americans should demand equal pay with all of the people attending the Oscars, especially those cheering for equal wages.

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