Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Another Instance Of The Wrong End Of The Job Market Stick

On the radio the other day, the perpetually confused Polly Toynbee was exclaiming how ‘disgraceful’ it is that people like doctors, nurses and teachers are paid so little in comparison to sports stars. Jeremy Corbyn bemoaned the same thing yesterday, and after I commented on Facebook, a friend remarked that in his experience a lot of football fans are disgusted at the players' wages and wished soldiers earned more instead. 

How can it be, Toynbee and Corbyn groaned, that those that save lives and educate our children earn just a fraction of those that kick a football around a field or whack a tennis ball over a net (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist)? Ignoring the fact that even if footballers earned less it doesn't mean soldiers would earn more, I will now make a quick comment on this matter.

As you may know, I agree with the part about sports stars being overpaid (although incidentally, they are in the minority – most highly paid people are probably not overpaid). Where Polly and Jezza are missing the mark though is in not understanding why it is, in fact, a good thing that doctors, nurses and teachers are nowhere near as well paid as sports stars.  

To explain why, let me ask a question. Would you like to live in a world in which a teacher or nurse is paid the same per week as the likes of Wayne Rooney and Andy Murray? Already you should be starting to see the problem – there wouldn’t be enough teachers and nurses to go round. In other words, it’s good that we live in a world in which a large number of people can be teachers or nurses and a relatively small number can be professional footballers or tennis players.

It’s precisely because caring for the sick and educating our young are far more important than ego-driven sports competitions that we ought to be thankful that teachers and nurses are in more abundant supply than professional sports stars - and that, for this very reason, their marginal revenue productivity is of a more affordable nature than a sports star whose talents are relatively rare.