Gender Pay Discrepancies

In 1937 the U.S. Treasury published salaries of 166 Hollywood stars and professionals, many of whose names are familiar to movie fans.

One may explain or try to explain the variation by any number of variables, but discrimination or a male/female gap is unlikely to be one of them. Why would studios pay a male or a female more or less due to their sex alone? They’re in business, and discrimination per se doesn’t pay off to a company. If one studio underpaid or tried to underpay someone, they’d be snatched by some other studio. Why should any of this be any different in other occupations?

One may ask 100 questions about the amounts paid, but it won’t get you anywhere. The results of supply and demand, a price, cannot be fathomed in all its complexity.

The only people who try to claim they’ve discovered discrimination via a gender pay “gap” (actually a discrepancy or difference) are those who have an axe to grind in doing so. Maybe it gets them a publication in a refereed journal, and this helps make a case for promotion. Maybe they get paid a consulting fee or expert testimony in a lawsuit. Maybe they gain notice in political circles by making a thing out of a gap. Maybe a few scholars are interested in discrepancies purely out of curiosity.

But none of the claims of discrimination can be taken seriously if labor markets are anywhere near open and free, which they typically are.

Even if differences are found, so what? If people preferred to see Mae West ($323,333) over Shirley Temple ($121,122), so what? How are we to know how much of this difference can be attributed to West’s screenwriting talents? If Stan Laurel made $135,167 while his partner, Oliver Hardy made $88,600, what are we to say?

Suppose differences are found. Does that mean the government creates justice by forcing employers to pay more? That’s absurd. Why should someone have to pay more than the market price for anything? The market price is the just price in open and free markets. Forcing wages by government power is inconsistent with any sensible idea of what freedom and justice mean.


8:48 pm on April 4, 2019