This post argues that it's time for a maximum wage, based on the vast inequality that currently exists in our society:
To make as much as Mitt Romney made in one year, a minimum-wage worker working 40 hours a week for $7.25 an hour would have to start work during the Liang Dynasty and work all the way to the present day.
The case is made that it's not equivelant to a socialist economy based on eliminating individual wealth and property, but rather limiting the range of extremes that are possible.
It won't make rich Americans poor, nor will it call for an equal distribution of wealth. A maximum wage would simply be legislation that states an executive shouldn't make more than 10 times what their average worker makes. A CEO can still make $5 million dollars a year if they wish. It just means their average worker has to make at least $500,000 a year.
While I wholeheartedly agree that this is a dire problem for our country and our world, and that narrowing the gap is crucial for our collective well-being, what comes to mind is that old adage, "you can't legislate morality". These problems of inequality are ultimately moral challenges, and while I think our laws can reflect our moral values as a society, it's also clear that until our collective values change, problems like these will remain an uphill struggle, at best.
This problem of income inequality is a good example. If we were to pass such laws setting a cap on salary ratios, does anyone doubt that there would be a feverish effort to find the loopholes and develop mechanisms to bypass the new restrictions? While such laws might help, we won't truly overcome these challenges until we reset our moral compasses, and accept some fundamental principles, such as the fact that we are all members of one human family. If we truly believed and acted on that belief, would we allow such injustice and suffering to continue? Would we be satisfied if our own brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers were getting paid pennies while we lived in the greatest comfort? Of course not.
So here's the irony, and the rub. Many on the right side of the political spectrum have no problem with the idea of legislating morality, as long as the morals don't cross certain lines, such as threatening the wealth of those fortunate enough to have accumalated it. On the othe side, those on the left often oppose what they consider legislating morality, in terms of social issues like abortion or even legalization of drugs. How many would admit that laws to limit wealth accumalation are indeed based largely on moral arguments?
A big dose of honesty would be most welcome, along with a good look in the mirror. What kind of society do we wish to build at this critical and transformative time in our history? One that operates like a family, where the needs and rights of all are considered and honored, even when it means sacrificing something of our own? Or one that operates like a gladiatorial arena, where only the strong and fortunate thrive?
Ultimately, the real change will not come down to politics and policy constructs, but to changes in human hearts. Once that process starts, I believe we can build sustainable systems of policy and administration that reflect these values. Until then, we will suffer in a state of conflict with ourselves.