Equal Pay for All: An Idea Whose Time Has Not, and Will Not, Come

In Debating Equal Pay for All: Economy, Practicability and Ethics. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 21-35 (2021)
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The proposal on offer is a radical form of egalitarianism. Under it, each citizen receives the same income, regardless of profession or indeed whether he or she works or not. This proposal is bad for two reasons. First, it is inefficient. It would eliminate nearly all incentive to work, thereby shrinking national income and leaving all citizens poorly off (albeit equally poorly off). I illustrate this inefficiency via an indifference curve analysis. Second, the proposal would be regarded as unjust by almost everyone. The empirical work on justice makes this plain. Equal pay for equal work is desirable; equal pay no matter what is something else entirely. It is an idea not likely to find adherents.

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Thomas Mulligan
Georgetown University


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