Republicans, Democrats and conservatives—come to think of it, most people—do not fear flaunting their inveterate ignorance of economics. Thus almost all have railed against economic inequality to boost their empathy credentials and likelihood of being elected or re-elected.
The Capitalist Professor, George Reisman, has the antidote, and has been kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of his essay “Fundamental Insights into the Benevolent Nature of Capitalism.” It is available to the general public for 99¢ as a Kindle Book on Amazon.com.
How Economic Inequality Is Essential for Successful Economic Competition by the Less Able
By George Reisman, Ph.D.
“As von Mises has … shown, with his development of Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage into the law of association, there is room for all in the competition of capitalism. Even those who are less capable than others in every respect have a place. In fact, in large measure, competition under capitalism, so far from being a matter of conflict among human beings, is a process of organizing that one great system of social cooperation known as the division of labor. It decides at what point in this all-embracing system of social cooperation each individual will make his specific contribution—who, for example, and for how long, will be a captain of industry, and who will be a janitor, and who will fill all the positions in between.
In this competition, each individual, however limited his abilities, is enabled to outcompete all others, however superior to him in their abilities they may be, for his special place. Quite literally, and as an everyday occurrence, those with abilities no greater than required to be a janitor are able to outcompete, hands down, without question, the world’s greatest productive geniuses—for the job of janitor. For example, Bill Gates might be so superior an individual that in addition to being able to revolutionize the software industry, he might be able to clean 5 times as many square feet of office space in the same time as any janitor now living, and do it better. But if Gates can earn $1 million an hour running Microsoft, and janitors can be found willing to work for, say, $10 an hour, their readiness to perform the job at one one-hundred thousandth of the hourly rate Gates would require, so far overcomes their lesser abilities that it is they who are the winners of this competition, without any question. For cleaning the amount of floor space that one of them can clean in an hour costs just $10, if one employs one of them, while having Gates clean that same amount of floor space costs $200,000, since the hour of his labor that would be required to clean 5 times as much floor space costs $1 million. To say the same thing slightly differently, employing 5 of them, who in combination clean as much floor space per hour as Gates, costs only $50, while employing Gates to do the same job costs $1 million.
It should go without saying that the same principle applies to all lesser degrees of productive superiority. Thus, for example, individuals capable of being janitors twice as efficient as the average janitor but also capable of doing work that the average janitor simply cannot do and that pays them more than twice as much per hour as the average janitor earns—these people will be outcompeted by the average janitor for the job of janitor. For it will be less expensive to employ two ordinary janitors than one twice-as-efficient janitor, who must be paid more than the two of them in combination, while their combined performance matches his.
There is an important implication in these examples for the subject of economic inequality. Namely, it is the ability of less capable people to work for wages sufficiently below those of more capable people that enables them to outcompete the more capable people and thereby to secure employment. It follows that all measures, such as minimum wage laws, that seek to force up the wages of less capable people operate to undercut their ability successfully to compete and thus to force them into unemployment, while depriving the rest of society of their services and forcing the movement of more capable workers into jobs that could have been filled by less capable workers.
In addition to the fact that under capitalism, there is room for even minimally capable people to be employed in the economic system, it is also the case that because productive geniuses are free to succeed in revolutionizing products and methods of production, those with minimal abilities are able to enjoy not only food, clothing, and shelter, but even such products as automobiles, television sets, and personal computers, products whose very existence they could probably never have even dreamed of on their own.”
Read the complete essay, “Fundamental Insights into the Benevolent Nature of Capitalism.”