Friday, September 14, 2007

Maximum wage?

Now this is a seriously good idea. Take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "When the Rich Make Too Much: Is it Time for a Maximum Wage?"

The United States needs an income cap, [Howard] Gardner posits in the new Foreign Policy, that limits the amount of money a single individual can annually take home to no more than "100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year."

"If the average worker makes $40,000," Gardner proposes, "the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year."

Gardner's Foreign Policy contribution also advocates a cap on wealth, proposing that "no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income."

If that allowed annual income were $4 million, then Gardner's proposal would allow no one, at death, to bequest a fortune greater than $200 million. Any individual wealth above that would have to "be contributed to charity or donated to the government."

What's driving Gardner, a psychologist, to an economic prescription?

"Most people in the United States cannot even envision a society that doesn't revolve around an untrammeled market," Gardner writes, noting the "widespread assumption," particularly among today's young people, "that the most accurate measure of success is how much money you have accumulated, indeed that general merit can best be gauged by one's net worth." These assumptions, says the Harvard psychologist, have nurtured a society where accumulation "has gone way too far," where a "hedge fund manager can take home a sum reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country."

A cap on income and riches, Gardner adds, would raise billions, even trillions, "to begin to solve the problems about which others are writing in this [Foreign Policy] collection of solutions to save the world."

I think it's an absolutely brilliant idea. I recommend that you click through and take a look at the comments after this article. Needless to say, a lot of them are passionate - both for and against.


  1. I think it's a great idea. Gives the fat cat CEO's incentive to pay their workers an actual living wage. The official poverty level is so far below the actual poverty level, it's sickening. I think Ben & Jerry's did this (before the company was sold, anyway) years ago -- they capped their wages at a percentage of what the lowest wage earner at the company made. That way, they could potentially make all the money they wanted to, they just had to share it fairly with the workers. Sounds great to me -- as I'm trying to figure out how to pay my bills this month.

  2. Folks interested in learning more about the maximum wage notion -- including the story of a U.S. President who actually proposed a maximum wage -- might want to check "Greed and Good," a book I did that's now available to read free online.


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