Don Boudreaux – Letter to a Very Bright 11th Grader

Your teacher asks you to challenge me to give “one good reason why the should not require that women be paid the same as men for the same work.”  I’m happy to oblige.  There are many good reasons, but I’ll here stick to one.

English: Social Studies classroom at Port Char...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in a while one of the brainwashed kids raises his (or, in this case, her) hand. It’s too bad that Annie is only doing “homework” encouraged (required?) by her teacher. Perhaps her teacher got so frustrated with Annie’s unwillingness to go along with the socialist model being taught – enforced – in her government school that she threw up her hands and decided to challenge Boudreaux through Annie. I don’t know.

But Boudreaux, without the heavy ideological overtones that I generally bring to such a discussion, answers her question: because each job is different.

What might look like the same work to outside observers – to government officials, lawyers, or even the workers themselves – might well be very different work.

Is the worker Mr. Smith more experienced than the worker Ms. Jones?  Is Mr. Smith less likely than is Ms. Jones to take time off of work to care for children or sick parents?  Is Mr. Smith less likely than is Ms. Jones to quit in order to move with a spouse to another city?  Is Mr. Smith a bit more helpful than is Ms. Jones with customers?  Is Mr. Smith slightly more willing than is Ms. Jones to stay on the job a few extra minutes after the workday officially ends in order to help with important unfinished business?

He then makes this important point: only the employee and the employer can determine what’s fair. Both are motivated to come to the best possible terms of employment, serving their own needs to the greatest extent possible, and this can only be done in a free market. Once any government gets involved, distortions and limits on freedom are the result.

Not that every employer always gets it right, but every employer does have strong incentives to get it right.  If an employer underpays a woman, some other firm can increase its profits by hiring her away at higher pay.

I grieve that the government schools are determined to turn out little communists. I’m glad Annie raised her hand to ask her question, and that Boudreaux was there to answer it.

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