Wage relation

The system of free competition and what it is about

It is well known that in this world “competition prevails”; it is ubiquitous as the principle of the way people deal with each other and as an imperative, anonymous law shaping the behavior of modern individuals.

Politicians show their respect for this fact when providing their citizens with equal opportunities, whether in education or in the economic world, where an antitrust law and an antitrust office make sure that the power of money is competed for properly. But they also do so when they decree reforms to the nation they govern and justify them as a service to their business location, which is facing the challenge presented by other business locations. And they do so especially in all their decisions aimed at security — i.e., in the questions that states and their leadership are so intent on because they face a trial of strength that must be won with the will and ability to use force.

In the economy, which sees to the production and distribution of wealth — not only within nationally delimited societies but, in the age of globalization, all over the world — there is nothing at all that the people in charge do without regard for competition. Setting prices and wages, calculating costs and surpluses, creating and eliminating jobs, introducing new production methods — in short, all aspects of investing are both reactions to the course of competition and actions aimed at succeeding in the contest of businessmen and business spheres. Businessmen or managers are always concerned with their company’s competitiveness; the lack of it is what’s to blame for any failure, unless government obstacles or other adverse business conditions have made it utterly impossible to be competitive. A competitor’s success is of course often evidence that it has violated the principle of genuine, free competition. Putting the comparison of products and prices, productivity figures and returns into practice is the reason for and the purpose of the decisions that management makes in banks and companies large and small; and the current market-economy theorists also regard any real or supposed limitation of this business practice as a harmful restriction of freedom.

Who earns how much and why?
Against moralism in the income debate

Nobody wants to say that prosperity and poverty — free access to the wealth of goods produced in the world and exclusion from them — necessarily belong to our unbeatable economic system; that would be something like critique of capitalism, god forbid. The idea is that there is some match between money earned and job. As if one and the same yardstick showing thousands per month were applied to the different jobs, and one job ended at the second thousand while the other was only just starting at the twentieth or two hundredth. Differences in income aren’t all right just like that, they are all right because they are fair. Just as the double meaning of ‘to earn’ says: receiving income and being entitled to it belong together. The relation being, by common consent, that income depends on what a person deserves, not the other way round.

At least in principle. In the real working world, everybody, when it comes down to it, knows plenty of cases in which the equation between just deserts and financial remuneration doesn’t quite work out.

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