For me the “Eat the Mofo CEOs!” argument, aka “CEO pay is an outrageous inequitable violation of human rights”, etc, etc. isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just very incomplete.
What we DO KNOW is that most folks are a lot better off here in USA than in most of the alternative economies. This is particularly true for those of us making more than a modest amount per year, but I think it’s hard to make a case that even welfare folks here are not better off than in, say, any of the other top 10 populated countries with perhaps Japan as an exception.
What has generated that prosperity for so many? Certainly “high CEO pay” is at best only a small factor in this, but I’m not clear how you can start modifying things like “maximum CEO benefits” without running into some complications with innovation and productivity.
One can reasonably note that there’s not a correlation between CEO pay and corporate productivity (at least I think this is indicated by several studies). However a better question is really “is there a correlation between the lack of intervention in economies and productivity?”. This has been tested now for many centuries across many countries, and we generally find that lack of intervention seems to create more total wealth and massive intervention as in old school communist crazy stuff tends to bring a sh**storm of economic trouble.
However US style ALSO seems to push the distribution more to the rich. Of course it would be better to have more equal distribution IF you could keep all that productivity, but how do you arrange that?
It’s the biggest question of our lives. I don’t have the answer, but when I look around the USA (where distribution is NOT equitable even after heavily progressive taxing of the rich) I see a LOT better standard for pretty much everybody than when I look around places that don’t have vibrant capitalistic economies (or have only had them a short time).
One can offer up Scandinavia as the “alternative model” and I’d agree that if we could duplicate Scandanavian standards of living at US scale we should do so. but I don’t think you could apply that model effectively to a country the size of the USA. These countries have some major advantages that have to do with oil wealth and demographics and history. They are smaller than many US states and thus not really comparable if you are talking about global economic architecture, as you must do when trying to “fix” the many problems the world is facing after the boom and recent mini-bust of the post WWII era.
It seems to me that the *first* line of discussion with respect to any economy needs to be “how do we create wealth?” rather than “how do we distribute he wealth we have created?”
This point is completely obvious to pretty much anybody I talk to from the right or in business, and seems to be completely opaque to many on the left side of the political equation, especially the wall street occupation forces. Many of those folks seem out of touch with basic business economics and hell bent on the destruction of capitalism – naively assuming that massive productivity will continue under all scenarios, so the only thing we should focus on is making sure the rich don’t get … richer, because then we’ll see all that prosperity flow more equitably to … usually… their causes or even to them.
But be careful what you wish for because when taking a global perspective on things redistribution will not necessarily flow in your direction! Folks in China and India are living at much lower levels than almost anybody here in the states, so as we work for equitable distribution (as we should), we’ll need to work to get THEM more involved in the economy so they can raise their standards to a fraction of ours! Globalization is taking care of this right now in the sloppy form capitalism usually takes, but it’s ironic to me that occupiers seem to think the wealth of the super rich should be heading back to mainstreet USA rather than to the truly needy. Rich or poor, pretty much everybody seems to think they are the underpaid and overworked folks. Take out a map folks and put your finger on your location. If it’s in USA then equitable distribution is likely to flow AWAY from you.
I’m all for more equitable distribution IF you can do it without hurting productivity, though I also would like to see that prosperity flow to those who really need it rather than simply bloating the bureaucracy as we tend to do when taxes go up.
Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Capital – the world’s largest Hedge Fund – both makes a ton of money and pays a ton of taxes. Like most of the rich he pays both a greater total amount and a greater percentage of his income to federal taxes. His point on Charlie Rose the other night was direct and simple. Like Gates, Buffett, and legions of other super-wealthy folks Dalio is going to be giving most of his billion dollar fortune away to the poor. He’d be happy to give it to the government IF they’d spend it wisely, but he knows that they will NOT.