There is increasing hostility in our culture to those make a good living. The complaint (mainly by political pundits) is that it is somehow unfair for these business owners and executives to earn a lot of money. But we do not that think is the case. In fact, there is a certain justice to those in such positions earning the high salaries they do.
Look Beyond the Surface
When assessing a given business, it is easy to see the everyday people fulfilling the face of that business. After all, it’s not like we routinely interact with the high ranking officers or founders of these companies (at least a lot of the time). It is the people we see every day that form the backbone of the companies that serve us.
But a fully functional body is not merely composed of a backbone. Arguably more important is the neurocenter, the brains behind the operations that form the plan for the business, and then put it into action.
The backbone is part of what will give the company strength, but that strength must be wisely and effectively used. Making these decisions and plans is not as simple as it may initially sound, and these people put a lot of work into making their businesses sustainable and profitable.
The Risk and the Reward
Running an enterprise is not merely as simple as having money and a given idea. It requires meticulous and painstaking planning. The owners take tremendous risks by starting their own business. They risk their own livelihoods, failure, embarrassment, etc. And most new businesses fail.
Yet many of them continue in their paths of entrepreneurship. If one fails, they try another. If that one fails, they try a third. And so on and so forth. It is hardly as simple as starting up something, hiring a few people, then kicking back and relaxing.
Managing something and making it grow requires constant nurturing, development, planning, and attention. Though the owners may gradually not handle as many everyday things as their enterprise grows, they still are working hard (sometimes even harder) to make the business keep going.
The same thing goes for executives of companies even if they were not founders. These officers must come up with visions and detailed plans of execution to make things happen. New product lines, new services, new regions, etc. all require an intense amount of thought and energy.
So why would it be fair for them to be paid menial wages? They’re not filling the same function as entry-level employees and have more developed skills to offer. This is not to diminish the value of the “frontline” employees, but to point out the fact that these employees need plans to put into action.
The plans come from the neurocenter, the top-level people who think and plan and experiment for the future of the business. It takes a lot of critical thought and energy to make this happen, and fairly few people can do it. Therefore, they are paid high salaries to compensate for the high demand and short supply.
Where Does the Envy of High Salaries Come From?
Envy has long been considered one of the “seven deadly sins.” It is a step beyond mere jealousy, but rather says “If I can’t have X thing, then the people who have it also should not have it.” It is a destructive thing that only creates internal strife and anger.
In its worst forms, such as in the Soviet Union and Communist China, it has led to the deaths of tens of millions. There is no end to the evils that envy will go to in order to accomplish its goals, no matter how much damage it may cause the person experiencing the envy.
And What of Income Inequality?
There will be no end to income in equality until there is an end to effort inequality. The fact of the matter is that some people are simply more willing to go above and beyond what everyone else is willing to do. It’s why many in the high-income brackets work so many hours a week: no one else is willing to do that.
Now, the tradeoffs are another story, such as less time with family and for other non-work pursuits. But by focusing more time and effort into a particular job, there simply will tend to be more productivity. A great deal of focus on one particular objective will make it far more likely to move forward.
And, to be frank, it would be unjust to take more of these people’s earnings in taxes. After all, they’ve worked hard for it, and have provided value to others in the process of doing so. Why should they effectively be punished for their rightly earned high salaries with confiscatory taxes?
Life is full of inequality. No person is fully equal to another. We are not even equal to ourselves on any given day. We continually grow and develop over time, and can choose to make ourselves into more productive members of society. A high salary is one indication (but certainly not the only one) of being such a person.
For those that put tremendous time and risk into starting and running a business, it is only fair for them to be compensated for that. Though the world may not see all the hard work that goes into the back end of running a business, there is a lot of it, and one of the reasons why entrepreneurs work as hard as they do is to reap the rewards.
There is justice in enjoying the fruit of one’s labor. A high value in these jobs equals high salaries. The injustice comes when other people who have not made such sacrifices believe they are entitled to what others have worked for.