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Monday, September 1, 2008

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Theory Vs. Reality

Bill O'Reilly believes in affirmative action.

The term affirmative action describes policies aimed at a historically socio-politically non-dominant group (typically, minority men or women of all racial groups) intended to promote its access to education or employment. Motivation for affirmative action is a desire to redress effects of actual or perceived, past or currentdiscrimination that is regarded as unfair.[who?] It also serves to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals and police forces to be more representative of the population[1].

This is commonly achieved through targeted recruitment programs aimed at applicants from socio-politically disadvantaged groups. In some cases affirmative action involves giving preferential treatment to these groups.[2] Opponents of affirmative action policies argue that they are based on collectivism and merely another equal form of discrimination because they can result in qualified applicants being denied entry to higher education or employment because they belong to a particular social group (usually the historically socio-politically dominant group; typically majority races and men, regardless of social standing or financial need.)[3] They also argue that preferential treatment should be based upon current social and
economical standing, not that of one's ancestors. Some opponents say affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen because of the social group they belong to rather than their qualifications.[4]

Only, O'Reilly has a very narrow definition of when he thinks it is appropriate. He believes that it shouldn't be used by race but rather by class. Also, he believes it should only be used when the two candidates are equal in every other way. In other words, if there are two equal candidates, then he would choose the one that came from poverty over the one that came from wealth.

Now, in theory, I have no problem with this. I think you should reward someone for lifting themself out of a bad situation. I think that, in and of itself, is a positive for a candidate, and it is a sign that a candidate will be successful. In practice though, I frankly don't know of a situation where two candidates are exactly equal. If you are a college entrance examiner, what ar the chances that two candidate have the exact same test scores, GPA, and extra curricular activities? If you are a hiring manager, what are the chances you will have two candidates with the exact same education, work history, references, etc? While O'Reilly's theory may work in theory, in practice it just simply will not happen. There are no two candidates that are exactly the same, and thus, any decision maker should be able to make a judgment by the individual characteristics of each candidate.

I think the same goes for the concept of equal pay for equal work now championed by Barack Obama. Barack Obama says that if a woman does the exact same work as a man, she should be paid the exact same amount. In theory, I agree with the Senator. In practice, equal pay for equal work is a nebulous concept that is difficult to determine, even more difficult to legislate, and a total nightmare to enforce. No two employees are the same. Even if they are doing the same job description, they bring different experience and qualifications to the job. There are many reasons why two employees are not paid the same. Yet, government is going to mandate that if one is a woman and the other is a man, they are paid the same.

Obama's idea is yet another well meaning idea that in practical terms will increase government bureaucracy, government intrusion in private business, and worse government corruption. This is exactly the sort of law that those with connections get a pass from and those without one get scrutinization. Barack Obama champions equal pay for equal work but he never says how he will implement such an idea.

Our political landscape is littered with such well meaning but nebulous ideas. The Endangered Species Act, for instance, was created to protect wildlife about to go extinct. The practical effect is the creation of one of the most powerful and intrusive bureaucracies.

1973, with many of our wildlife going extinct, President Nixon and the Democratic Congress, created the Endangered Species Act. What was meant as a way to protect endangered species has turned into one of the most powerful government programs. In fact, The government can take away citizens' property rights, prohibiting certain uses and any development if a property is designated "critical habitat."ESA is "called by many the single most powerful law ever passed," by conservative environmental expert R.J. Smith.The ESA program received $136.9 million for listing species, studies, and the like in 2004. However, a Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman estimated an additional $51.6 million would be spent in 2004 on enforcement. In 1997, Fish & Wildlife estimated, federal and state governments spent $301 million on "certain expenditures" related to endangered species, but no one has been able to estimate ESA's cost to the economy and personal liberty.

In fact, in sports, we've already had an idea similar to equal pay for equal work. It's called Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, but more commonly known simply as Title IX, is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination
under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."[1] Although the most prominent "public face" of Title IX is its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no reference to athletics.[2] The legislation covers all educational activities, and complaints under Title IX alleging discrimination in fields such as science or math education, or in other aspects of academic life such as access to health care and dormitory facilities, are not unheard of. It also applies to non-sport activities such as school bands, cheerleaders, and clubs; however, social fraternities and sororities, gender-specific youth clubs such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and Girls State and Boys State are specifically exempt from Title IX requirements.

Here is the practical effect of that law.

The practical result has been the wholesale elimination of many men's sports programs at many colleges.federal Title IX spending was be $88.3 million 2004. Schools will spend unknown additional millions seeking to comply, or dealing with Title IX lawsuits. Unknown numbers of athletes will not be able to play the sport of their choice.

In theory, I hope everyone supports the concept of equal pay for equal work. In practice, such a law means an intrusive bureaucrat telling business owners just how much they should pay each of their employees. If you are comfortable with bureaucrats combing through the business receipts and employee data of private business, then support equal pay for equal. On the other hand, if you believe in free markets, then that is something that the market can take care of much better than any bureaucrat. If a company doesn't pay their women well, they won't have women working there. There are bigots all over the place, however legislating the end of bigotry is one of those concepts that sounds good in theory but will blow up in practice.

1 comment:

Alan said...

If a company doesn't pay their women well, they won't have women working there.

I could not agree more. We already have laws on the books. It is time to put money behind our existing laws and system.