I came across an image online that purports to show the ratio-of-pay of CEOs to that of the “average workers” of different countries. I say “purports” because there is no citation of the sources used to make the image, but I write this with the assumption that it is all true.
At the top of the graph is Japan, with a CEO-to-average-worker-pay ratio of 11:1. In the ninth-place spot is Venezuela with a ratio of 50:1. And in the country following that, in the tenth-place spot, the ratio jumps to 475:1. That country is the United States.
In order to understand what it all means, one has to know what is meant by “average worker.” What it means is actually an employee who has an “average position,” but that gets us no closer to understanding. So what is meant by “average position”?
I’m really not sure, because it occurs to me that there is no such thing as an average position. There is no such thing as an average worker, an average position, or an average title at a job. Everybody in the workforce has different positions, and each position comes with certain benefits.
The only reason for creating this image is to stir up envy, and that’s an ugly emotion and an even uglier motivator. If the image were made to encourage Americans to work harder so that they can reach the top and become a CEO, it’d be a different story. But the phrase at the bottom of the image, “The truth will set you free,” indicates the image is meant to shame the rich, thus encouraging sloth and unproductivity.
I think that a reasonable person will see this image and think, Why should I care how much money my co-workers make or how much the CEO of my company makes? See, when you apply to a job, you agree to work there for the salary you’re being offered. There may be some negotiating up front, but when it’s settled, you agree to work for x hours a day, x days a year, if they agree to pay you x amount. And you both agree.
If $15 an hour, or, say, a salary of $40,000 a year, is good enough for you without knowing how much your boss makes, then why is such an hourly wage or yearly salary not enough after knowing how much your boss makes? Did your own personal economic circumstances suddenly change with the knowledge that someone else makes more than you?
What this image tells me is that the United States rewards ambition and hard work. It tells me that here in the United States, we breed people (some people, anyway) who believe that the CEO’s provision of thousands of jobs to middle-class citizens, both by hiring them and by doing the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the company afloat, is worth something.