Politics Magazine

Money, Money, Money: Money

Posted on the 30 August 2012 by Erictheblue


At the supper table this evening, the 9-year-old asks: Who makes more money, you or mom?  Well, I do, of course, what kind of wispy conception of my manhood would cause you to ask?  (Plus, mom's a few months into a new career, and I'm more than 25 years into mine.)

It made me think, though, about the connection, if any, between one's salary and the value of the work performed.  Maybe if I was trained in economics, it would make more sense, but more likely I'd just have long, unsatisfactory answers instead of none at all.  A nurse gets this much, a teacher that much, I earn a certain amount less than my boss but a certain amount more than the people who report to me, Mitt Romney made gazillions at Bain Capital, the author of Moby Dick is buried in a pauper's cemetery, and on and on.  Who can account for it?  If you are a hunter-gatherer or a subsistence farmer, the connection between what you do and what you get for it is fairly clear and the work therefore acquires a certain dignity.  For a middle-manager, however, the compensation seems entirely arbitrary, which converts the work into a kind of servitude while the paycheck is an inscrutable charity.  It shows on the faces of people using public transportation during the rush hours.

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