Re: [OPE-L] status equality

From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Sun Feb 13 2005 - 02:41:41 EST

Hi Rakesh

> They are equal in having those causal powers but they do not have those causal powers in equal measure.

That's a better way of putting it.

> There will always be individual variation in that ability to move [ in the division of labour]. And there is no reason why a socialist society should not be willing to treat people unequally, i.e. give extra training to those who need it. But this might not be justifiable if we are to treat people in the same abstract terms, as abstract equals.  People would also still be unequal in terms of their needs. I may have children, you do not. But if we were to be paid equally, treated as formal equals, then this would mean inequality.

I don't think objective equality of causal powers implies that
everyone should get paid exactly the same. Some parts of the division
of labour may be particularly unpleasant or dangerous, for instance.

> I think there are enormous ideological pressures to reify people as
> abstract equals of others. How else could the labor contract appear
> just and free?

No, I don't think this is quite right. Isn't the ideology that we have
equal formal status in the marketplace, but we are highly unequal in
our abilities?  So the story goes that we all have equal
opportunities, and hence the extraordinary wealth of the capitalist
class is due to merit, not exploitation. Top CEOs happen to be highly
skilled, intelligent kinds of workers, and their incomes are a
reflection of that.

This set of ideas is saying that it is the inequality of the causal
powers of humans that is properly reflected in huge income
inequalities, because the economic game is fair, providing equal
opportunities for all. It appears as a kind of meritocracy. Witness
Schumpeter's gyrations to try and define a rare, psychological type,
with causal powers distinct from his fellow man, that heroically risks
the loan to try out new combinations and get the just reward. Here the
mismatch is between a fair society but an unfair nature. This is what
I meant by the huge ideological pressures to view each other as

But the reality is the opposite: there is equality of causal powers of
humans but they participate in an economic game that is unfair, which
only provides unequal opportunities, and this is the cause of huge
income inequalities. The cause of economic inequality is structural,
and is not explained by the unequal causal powers of humans. The real
mismatch is between a fair nature but an unfair society.

It is a very low probability event that a single individual could
contribute to the firm product such that their meritorious income is,
say, 300 times that of the average worker, which is what many CEOs
receive. A worker contributing 300 times more than the average is a
bit like H20 behaving like N2O, a laughable occurrence.

Presumably in a more democratically organised economy the income
distribution would have a single regime with a lower dispersion than
that found in capitalism, with its two regimes and high dispersion.


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