Single People and Women Should Receive Less Pay For Equivalent Work

January 8, 2008 § 52 Comments

Treating people as things is where most evil starts, and employees are real people not things. As real people employees have human natures, and human nature isn’t Kantian universalism or Nietzschean will-to-power or whatever: human nature is social, human beings are raised by mothers and fathers in families, and not everyone is a father at all let alone is everyone equally a father all at the same time. To hire a father is to hire a person who has primary responsibility for materially providing for his family; such a hiring is a different kind of thing from hiring a teenager to mow the lawn or hiring an older mother with an empty nest looking for some extra cash to spend on the grandkids.

Employment as an institution which treats a father of five as a fungible productivity unit equivalent to a bachelor, or a single woman, or even a wife and mother, is a deliberate institutionalization of inhumanity. Deliberate institutionalization of inhumanity is a moral evil, so the institutionalization of equal pay for equal work is immoral.

That doesn’t imply that in every case a woman should make less money than a man, or any such risible extrapolation. It doesn’t mean that a family-man slacker should draw more pay than a diligent spinster. Human beings being what they are, exceptional circumstances are common and varied, judgement of individual circumstances is always required, and few things are more inhuman than “zero tolerance” categorical rules about the nuts and bolts of everyday life as actually lived.

But as some kind of categorical employment imperative backed by the force of law, the concept of equal pay for equal work is fundamentally inhuman and immoral. There is a basic difference between treating people as human beings with inherent dignity and treating them as interchangeable fungible productivity units, despite how amusing it is to say “fungible productivity unit”.

I understand the objections: it is presently illegal to hire and set pay based on marital status and children, it is difficult to get employers to do the right thing, if fathers are morally entitled to greater pay – a living wage – than those who do not have the garnering of a living wage as their natural duty, well, capitalism as presently consitituted is going to lock fathers out of the workplace, fragment jobs into contract work and piecemeal jobs, and hire the cheapest workers. I get all that.

So much the worse for how things are presently constituted.

(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong with the World)

UPDATE:
For anyone who is unaware of it, the Catechism reference for this is here:

2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.

(Emphasis mine).

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§ 52 Responses to Single People and Women Should Receive Less Pay For Equivalent Work

  • Anonymous says:

    The Blackadder Says: Wouldn’t your principles apply to buying goods from people as well? If I buy an ice cream cone from a man who is a father, isn’t it inhuman to give him no more in exchange for the cone than I would a single man or a woman, at least on your view of the matter?

  • zippy says:

    Hiring someone as an employee is clearly different from buying an ice cream cone from him. The former is initiating a long-term relationship with the man in which he and his family are primarily dependent on you for a living wage; the latter isn’t.There is <>something<> to what you say, though, it seems to me. Suppose I had a choice of two ice cream vendors, and I knew that the one was a father barely subsisting who needed every bit of business he could get for his family and the other was a teenager who sold ice cream in order to populate his iPod. It seems to me that I have some level of moral obligation (though again it isn’t categorical) to support the father and buy his ice cream as opposed to buying ice cream from the teenager.

  • Anonymous says:

    The Blackadder Says: “Hiring someone as an employee is clearly different from buying an ice cream cone from him. The former is initiating a long-term relationship with the man in which he and his family are primarily dependent on you for a living wage; the latter isn’t.”Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Aside from my current job, none of the jobs I’ve had have had even the possibility of long-term employment, let alone the certainty of it. There are plenty of jobs, contract work, seasonal work, part time work, etc., where the assumptions you seem to make about the nature of employment don’t really hold.

  • zippy says:

    <>…where the assumptions you seem to make about the nature of employment don’t really hold.<>FWIW, I’m a “self-made” multimillionaire, I’ve been the CEO of two companies and involved with countless others, and I’m intimately familiar – more than most people who aren’t HR managers – with the nature of employment as presently practiced. If the nature of a great deal of employment as presently practiced is structurally immoral, in the sense that it doesn’t lend itself to making moral choices when it comes to employment; if that is the case (and it is) then so much the worse for the way employment is presently practiced. That is the point of the post.

  • Anonymous says:

    The Blackadder Says: If employment as currently practiced is structurally immoral, then yes, so much the worse for for employment as currently practiced. I just don’t think it follows from your premises that employment as currently practiced is structurally immoral.

  • zippy says:

    That it is explicitly illegal to do the right thing is a hint that there is structural immorality in play.

  • Bob says:

    Hmmm…I remember that I once thought it was unfair that married military got an extra allowance not given to single military.I no longer think this way, but it is interesting that the US government allows this exception of equal pay for the military.Perhaps the way to get around this on the civilian side is in the handing out of Christmas bonuses?

  • zippy says:

    The fact that something must be “gotten around” through dishonest dealing though is itself a problem. Handing out Christmas bonuses to the married guys with kids <>because they are married guys with kids<> is something you can be successfully sued for under current law. If you lie about the reasons why you are doing it you might get away with it, but if you tell the truth you lose.

  • H.Myer says:

    So, under your system, how do single mothers with children get compensated? Do fathers with grown children take a pay cut after the kids move out of the house? What about divorced parents? Do fathers with 10 children get paid more than fathers with 1 child? And finally, are you serious??

  • Scott says:

    <>So, under your system, how do…<>It seems this part covers those and any hypotheticals you care to throw out:<>That doesn’t imply that in every case a woman should make less money than a man, or any such risible extrapolation. It doesn’t mean that a family-man slacker should draw more pay than a diligent spinster. Human beings being what they are, exceptional circumstances are common and varied, judgement of individual circumstances is always required, and few things are more inhuman than “zero tolerance” categorical rules about the nuts and bolts of everyday life as actually lived.<>So why wouldn’t he be serious?

  • Steve P. says:

    Hmm. I don’t think Zippy has a system. He has a criticism and a good point.I’ve been thinking lately that government should subsidize paychecks with a family allowance, the opposite of a tax withholding, and should do so for breadwinners of families based on their family size. Child allowances aren’t a new idea the difference is that the allowance would be paid by the employer who would be reimbursed. I suppose a problem with that idea is that many employers might be tempted to actually pay breadwinners LESS (before the subsidy) than single people in a way that would effectively reduce the subsidy.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Interesting point, steve, and I guess it raises the question of whether the duty to ensure that breadwinners receive a living wage should be born by employers, or through redistributive taxes.I keep thinking that the way the current health care system locks breadwinners (particularly fathers) into 40-hour a week jobs with big employers cannot be econmincally efficient.

  • SpiritMeadow says:

    hmmm….to each according to his needs…oh the other part…from each according to his ability…Yep…headed for communism…what utter trash.

  • zippy says:

    Right, because anyone who does not light a pinch of incense to ideological laissez-faire capitalism is necessarily a communist.

  • Scott says:

    <>hmmm….to each according to his needs…oh the other part…from each according to his ability…Yep…headed for communism…what utter trash.<>It seems the current system with its top-down use of federal bullying and violating the principle of subsidiarity resembles Marxism-Leninism than Zippy’s points.

  • H. Myer says:

    So, Zippy. How did you make your “self-made” millions. Anything to do with laissez-faire capitalism?

  • zippy says:

    Mostly my ‘self-made’ (scare quoted deliberately: people say I am self-made, but my own role in things, though it was crucial, was merely one small part of it) economic successes have had to do with other people.Business as presently practiced bears little resemblance to idealized laissez-faire capitalism. (Indeed, recognizing that fact can itself be a competitive advantage). Of the handful of billionaires I’ve known as acquiantances, most are left-leaning in their politics. I’m hard pressed to think of any present-era ‘captain of industry’ who is an ideological libertarian on economic matters — T.J. Rogers maybe. It is arguable that TJ’s ideology has limited the scope of his success, frankly, by isolating him from the rest of the aristocracy; though he is without doubt a very successful and talented man.I achieved my own relatively modest success mostly by identifying aristocrats with whom I could associate, arranging things such that when I succeeded in a project it would also benefit them, working very hard, getting very lucky, and in the end making a lot of money for them and incidentally for myself. (At one point I literally gave away – at a tiny fraction of a penny per share for legal/technical reasons – a significant interest in a company I started just to get the right person interested in its success). I think of it as the William Marshal model. If someone approaches me with the objective of becoming personally wealthy I suggest abandoning libertarian ideals, looking upon modern arrangements as something akin to feudalism or tribalism, and then attempting to be the William Marshal of one’s own little corner of the Angevin Empire. One must still observe liberal pieties too, of course, in order to avoid being ejected from the feudal court.

  • h. myer says:

    Zippy,I can’t tell for sure if your advice for “becoming personally wealthy” is sincere or not, but it seems to me that the concept of equal pay for equal performance is a component of “modern arrangements” or at least a “liberal piety”

  • zippy says:

    Oh, it is completely sincere, though it was a high-level description of <>how to do something<> not an evaluation of whether one <>ought to do it<>. Observing liberal pieties is often as not just a matter of keeping one’s mouth shut as the liberals around one engage in their little devotionals.And yes, one has to act legally in order to do anything in business. Someone who is presently an employer must follow employment law as presently constituted unless it gets to the point where it is <>immoral for him to follow it in a particular instance<>. The present subject though is about the higher level subject of what employment law ought and ought not require. (Actually it isn’t even about that: it is about the moral context which ought to frame any discussion of that).

  • h. myer says:

    Zippy,You initially stated that:”Deliberate institutionalization of inhumanity is a moral evil, so the institutionalization of equal pay for equal work is immoral”Is it not then, immoral for you as an employer to obey this law (on the path to personal wealth)?

  • zippy says:

    <>Is it not then, [necessarily] immoral for you as an employer to obey this law<>No. King John making a law which it is immoral as a matter of imprudence to make is an entirely distinct act, with entirely distinct implications, from William Marshal obeying that law in a particular context. That doesn’t give William an automatic pass, mind you: but clearly his moral evaluation is quite distinct, in a great many ways, from John Softsword’s.

  • “well, capitalism as presently consitituted is going to lock fathers out of the workplace, fragment jobs into contract work and piecemeal jobs, and hire the cheapest workers. I get all that.”And are you going to suggest a solution? Who or what will force capitalists to *not* lock fathers out of the workplace?Because if you don’t, then you idea, however good it may be, is either useless or dangerous. Personally, I think only a complete cultural change, which made it so that a)employers believed they were honor-bound to pay married men more, b)married men demanded more, and c)single people and women accepted and even supported this as just, would make it work. Otherwise it would be impossible except in a “1984” society.Histor

  • zippy says:

    <>And are you going to suggest a solution? Who or what will force capitalists to *not* lock fathers out of the workplace?<>One of the suggestions I made in the thread at W4 was that corporate profits could be taxed based on the number of married fathers with children employed (that is, either a rate reduction or tax credit for employing more fathers and fewer women and singles). I also suggested with tongue only partially in cheek an UEOC (Unequal Employment Opportunity Commission) to replace the EEOC and enforce egregious cases of failure to discriminate in favor of fathers, etc.<>Otherwise it would be impossible except in a “1984” society.<>Well, it wasn’t impossible a matter of mere decades ago, and I don’t think we were in a 1984 society prior to the 1960’s. But you may be right that that implies complete cultural change from where we are right now. If that is the case, the first step in such a cultural change is to talk about these things openly in this manner, to explicitly reject the present regime of ‘equal employment opportunity’ as the insanely inhuman thing it is, etc.

  • h. myer says:

    You seem to be making a different (or additional) point now, that fathers with children should be preferentially hired. Fathers with children already get a federal income tax incentive(unless they are already wealthy) based on the number of children in the household. I assume that you support this. Why does it follow that “equal pay, equal work” means that fathers are making less than a living wage? I don’t think it does.

  • zippy says:

    <>You seem to be making a different (or additional) point now, that fathers with children should be preferentially hired.<>I don’t see it as an utterly distinct point. These things are all connected.I do support income tax deductions for dependents, naturally, but doing the right thing in one small matter doesn’t license doing the wrong thing in others. And the “equal opportunity employment” hegemony is insane, inhuman, wrong, destructive of family, and should be torn down and left on history’s midden heap of bad ideas.

  • h. myer says:

    No, equal pay for equal work is not insane or wrong. The only hegemony I see here is that of the “intellectual elite”, secure in their wealth, trying to fix things for the rest of us, harkening back to the good old days when white family men got paid more than women or non-whites ( one right doesn’t justify a wrong, got it) I doubt there are any men with children who would even argue that they deserve to be paid more than their single coworkers. I know, I know, they just don’t understand that they are victims of injustice. Thanks for looking out for us Zippy.

  • zippy says:

    <>The only hegemony I see here is that of the “intellectual elite”, secure in their wealth, trying to fix things for the rest of us, …<>Trust me, the amoral wealthy elite <>loves<> the regime of requiring all workers to be treated as interchangeable faceless units of productivity to be bought and sold at a price. It works in their best interests, and at the same time makes them feel like they are good people because they support “equality”. It wouldn’t be the entrenched way of doing things if it didn’t.<>Thanks for looking out for us Zippy.<>You’re welcome.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,Are you advocating here preferred pay for married men over those who are single?In that case, do you mean you would intentionally underpay a single man over those married all because of his being single?How do you justify this? Does this not strike you as immoral?e.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    I’m a never-married single guy of 44, and I would not object to it. I don’t object to married families getting a tax break–why should I object to them getting better pay? (“Underpay” is just rhetoric–either the pay is reasonable, or I’ll go somewhere else.)The reasons are the same–they are doing far more for this world than I will ever do if I remain single. They are working harder and enduring more stress than I will ever endure–and the health (the very survival) of civilization depends upon them far far more than it depends upon me.

  • zippy says:

    <>Are you advocating here preferred pay for married men over those who are single?<>Yes, exactly, though I Haven’t said anything about if or how that should be formally institutionalized. My larger concern is with the fact that it is illegal to do so, and that people think that is a good thing.<>How do you justify this?<>That is in the post.<>Does this not strike you as immoral?<>No. In fact the current prohibition of it in law is I think immoral (which is to say it is immorla in virtue of its gross imprudence).

  • William Luse says:

    Silly Interloper seems like a good man. I hope he finds a wife.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,How can deliberately underpaying single people strike you as moral?Whatever happened to the message of the Gospel wherein “a laborer is worth his wages”?To purposely pay a single person a mere pittance of what he actually deserves is an outrage (as well as immoral) all because that person is single.It is not a just wage; it is, in fact, an unfair treatment such individuals as the very fungible productivity unit you so detest in your comments!

  • Anonymous says:

    Silly Interloper,<>I’m a never-married single guy of 44, and I would not object to it. I don’t object to married families getting a tax break–why should I object to them getting better pay? (“Underpay” is just rhetoric–either the pay is reasonable, or I’ll go somewhere else.)<>So, in your summation, unjust wages for single people is fine and dandy?<>The reasons are the same–they are doing far more for this world than I will ever do if I remain single. They are working harder and enduring more stress than I will ever endure–and the health (the very survival) of civilization depends upon them far far more than it depends upon me.<>And who is guilty of such “rhetoric” here?For one, you are assuming too much by stating they are working harder and enduring more stress when, on the contrary, it may be as well otherwise.In fact, the kind of payment system that you are endorsing would not even take their work performance into account since all it requires is for the person to be married and that alone would be sufficient reason to “overpay” him regardless of his actual contributions to the company!Second, how can any single person under your despotic system even hope to plan for the future of a potential family when you justify a mere pittance of pay for them — regardless of their hard work and contributions!

  • zippy says:

    <>How can deliberately underpaying single people strike you as moral?<>“Underpaying” assumes the conclusion.<>…it is, in fact, an unfair treatment such individuals as the very fungible productivity unit you so detest in your comments!<>It is hard to see how that could possibly be the case. “Fungible” means “exactly interchangeable”, and the point is that they aren’t.At bottom in these things is “equality” as a moral concept. Modern people, with our enlightenment-influenced scientistic outlook, tend to view equality as fungibility. This particular subject tends to separate the wheat (ideas) from the chaff (ideas) in that respect, which is why, beyond the particular question itself, I find it interesting.

  • zippy says:

    <>…the kind of payment system that you are endorsing would not even take their work performance into account since all it requires is for the person to be married and that alone would be sufficient reason to “overpay” him regardless of his actual contributions to the company…<>You’ve obviously misunderstood the idea. The idea is that <>inter alia<> a married man with children should be paid more than a single person. The <>inter alia<> is important.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,With all do respect, I asked for the sake of clarification:<>Are you advocating here preferred pay for married men over those who are single?<>You had answered:<>Yes, exactly<>

  • zippy says:

    I <>am<> advocating preferential pay for married men. Where do you see inconsistency?Saying that preferential pay for married men is morally required isn’t the same thing as saying that a married man should always and in every case receive more pay than a woman or single man no matter what, or that performance should not be reflected in any way in how much one pays, or any of those other things. In fact if you read the original post I preemptively refer to such things as “risible extrapolation[s]”.

  • Tony M says:

    Zippy, I agree with your sentiment, indeed I made much the same argument to Mary Ann Glendon 4 or 5 years ago on seeing her argue in support of a certain UN resolution supporting equal pay for equal work. But to make your theory more sound and complete, you need to take into account other principles of moral economics. The main one which was left out here being on the other end of the equation: a person ought to seek to become capable of, and seek to undertake, those jobs whose duties and responsibilities are commensurate with (and whose pay is commensurate with) the duties of his home life. The basis for this principle is that a person is one integral being – that part of him which is “at work” and that part of him which is “at home” are two aspects of one person, and that one single person ideally should be living up to capacity in both aspects of life, not just one. If this principle were capable of being carried out more or less satisfactorily, one would find that a person who expected and hoped for a family with several children would, perforce, seek to become educated enough to get a job which pays enough to support said family. People who feel that working at the brewery all their life moving pallets of beer around should pay enough to raise a family are somewhat in the dark on this. On the other hand, there are plenty of jobs whose duties are commensurate with the duties of a large family, and DON’T pay anything like enough. I recall that one of my classmates from college taught theology at a Catholic high-school, and had to work weekends to support herself <> as a single <>. The fact that she was responsible for helping to form the minds, hearts and souls of 25 teens (at a time) in the ways of God, both managing the classroom and pounding instruction into recalcitrant kids, meant that in a fair world she should have been paid as much as many senior managers – easily over 100k. Interestingly enough, this was at a diocesan high school – isn’t if funny that the bishops talk a lot about social justice and just wages, but perpetrate some of the worst examples of unjust wages themselves? One of the corollaries of this appears to be, if I follow it out to logical conclusions, something regarding the many people who do not have the interior capacity (both now and prospectively are limited either intellectually or in temperament or fiber) to manage jobs that are complex and challenging – the born followers, the born gardeners and such. Perhaps these people simply are not meant to be raising a large family, or (for a few) even any kids at all. When I think about how some people run from complexity, or run from challenging situations because they cannot cope, one of the questions that pops into my head is – if I was unable or unwilling to tackle such problems, would I have any hope of raising my children well? Raising children well is, inherently, demanding, difficult, complex. Raising many does not merely add to the level of difficulty, it multiplies the difficulty (this can be proven mathematically if necessary). In a time merely 80 years ago, it was assumed by a certain class of society that they had little choice in life outside of being maids and servants. One might say that these people received fulfillment in respect of the immediate community they lived with not by having their own children, but by contributing to the betterment of “their” employer-family. (I don’t agree with distinguishing such people by class, but suggest it be by individual personal character). If Zippy is right about wages meeting family requirements, and I am right about personal capacity for a job being bound up in personal capacity for family responsibility, it would appear that many people should be paid much more, many people should get jobs that more reflect their innate capacity, and many people should never have undertaken family responsibilities for which they will never be suited – either in the home or in the workplace which must generate the wherewithal for the home.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    <>So, in your summation, unjust wages for single people is fine and dandy?<>I said nothing about unjust wages. I am perfectly happy to receive reasonable wages that are significantly less than reasonalbe wages given to a married man for the same job. Nothing unjust about that.<>For one, you are assuming too much by stating they are working harder…<> See Zippy’s inter alia comment.<>In fact, the kind of payment system that you are endorsing would not even take their work performance into account…<>I didn’t propose a comprehensive payment system, and I never excluded performance as being one aspect of a payment system. The only thing I said was that it is perfectly fine for a married man to make more money than me. It would be in fact *good* that he does.<>…when you justify a mere pittance of pay for them — regardless of their hard work and contributions!<>If you want me to take you seriously, you will stop saying that I justify extreme things that I did not say at all. So read carefully and think about what I’m saying: I do not support paying people a pittance for hard work, and I do not suggest that a hard worker not receive raises or other pay for merit–whether he is married or not.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I think such a scheme requires a high-trust society, which is pretty far from where we are (not that we shouldn’t try to get there).As things are now, if an employer paid breadwinners more, there would be jockeying to establish oneself as a breadwinner, suspicions about whether some claiming breadwinner status are doing so legitimately, etc. Similar to how people today jockey to be considered a member of a victimized minority group.

  • zippy says:

    <>I made much the same argument to Mary Ann Glendon 4 or 5 years ago on seeing her argue in support of a certain UN resolution supporting equal pay for equal work.<>That must have been an interesting encounter.Thanks for the comments. You are right that this isn’t a fleshed out theory, it is just a small bundle of moral and other observations. I don’t have a system worked out in my mind of how it all plays out from principle to praxis. My general approach as a political matter would be in more or less order of priority to (1) Change the law so that it does not prohibit doing the right thing;(2) Work to see that the culture rejects the wrong principle (equal pay for equivalent work) underlying the bad law;(3) Enact legislation encouraging right behavior and discouraging wrong behavior in aggregate without micromanaging day to day decisions (e.g. tax-advantage the family at the employer level: better tax treatment for corporations which hire disproportionately more men, and especially more fathers).(4) If necessary, use fines and other ‘EEOC-like’ measures to bring the intransigent into compliance.That is of course just the beginning of a long conversation. The more ‘micromanaged’ or ‘microsubsidized’ a specific proposal becomes, the more reluctant I become to endorse it for a whole variety of reasons that mostly boil down to subsidiarity. But in the big picture, that where we are now is 180 degrees from where we need to be, is pretty clear.Thanks for the reflections.

  • zippy says:

    <>Similar to how people today jockey to be considered a member of a victimized minority group.<>That is a good point John, and in thinking about it that is connected to my reluctance to resort to micromanagement and microsubsidy. In general people will always jockey for position, and the more complex and detailed and micro-level the rules become the more various individuals will find ways to ‘game’ the system. There is no avoiding the problem that human beings will always try to game the system, but some systems are more amenable to it than others.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Perhaps another way of putting this is to make the unit of equality the family rather than the individual. A breadwinner may may more absolute money than a single person, but as units, our families will be treated equally.A problem I see with this is there is tension between this and the diginity of the individual person, which is what undergirds the Catholic position on abortion, torture, and other issues. Our current family does not have the authority to determine that it would be in the best interests of our family unit to abort a new child. Each member of our family, including an unborn child has an individual dignity and worth separate from his membership in our family.

  • zippy says:

    <>A problem I see with this is there is tension between this and the diginity of the individual person, which is what undergirds the Catholic position on abortion, torture, and other issues.<>I agree, and I tend to think we need some kind of new ‘hermeneutic of humanity’ to replace the atomized ‘equality’ abstraction we’ve gotten from the Enlightenment without on the other hand treating peasants as cannon fodder and slave labor. I’m not particularly fond of the idea of trying to wrestle ‘equality’ to that end, since it always seems to run back home to momma, if you will. But I acknowledge that there are dangers in rejecting it, in that when modern people run screaming from Kant they almost inevitably seem to end up in the arms of Nietzsche. The real challenge I see is getting people (as in the average Joe) to realize that that is far from inevitable.

  • Tony M says:

    I have seen suggested, half-jokingly but half-seriously, that the smallest unit which casts votes for politics should be the family, but that the smallest unit which holds a vote is the individual – so that the head-of-household casts all the votes for a family. If we extend that idea to other cultural situations it might work some. I am thinking both of wages and in other areas. For wages: it used to be the case for upper middle-class jobs, say managers and such, that the wife was included in the equation. That is to say, on one hand, having a charming and friend-making wife helped the guy move up in the management positions, and on the other hand his pay was explicitly understood to reflect the fact that the wife took care of the home front and social arrangements to free him up for office work. In fact, I read a court decision from the 1960’s which was based on an EXPLICIT recognition of this fact regarding Foreign Service spouses – that they were understood to contribute to the overall service provided by the employee. The exact mechanism of recognition is what needs fleshing out. In other cultural contexts: I don’t know where this would lead, but someone suggested that under JPII’s understanding of vocation, we are all called to live in connection with (or at home in) a community of persons. A single individual living alone both is harmed and (at least often) causes harm to society living alone. He is harmed by the aloneness because it stunts him spiritually and affectively. Society is harmed by him (often) because his decisions are made in a way that cannot help be overly self-reflective. A person NEEDS to have others to give to on a daily basis. Perhaps, in a well-modeled society, a single person who has left his parents’ household and is not yet married (or otherwise decided on a vocation directing him to a specific community) should generally, if not always, participate in the goods of a home community by renting a room from a family. Then his daily contact would involve him in the self-less caring for others. This would also promote with ease a notion that his wages would ultimately contribute to the welfare of a whole family, not just him alone. This might be hair-brained, or might not. Just a thought.

  • Tony M says:

    By the way, Zippy, I am not quite sure of the actual degree to which laws actually forbid paying the “breadwinner” more than others. I know of a Catholic college which pays its faculty members in part based on the number of children at home under age 18. It obviously pays more to a married teacher with 5 kids than to a teacher who is single, though they hold the same jobs. At the other end, when the kids leave the home, the parent’s salary drops down to the level they would be paid if they had no kids. As long as the salary is not decided on the basis of sex, or race, then I don’t think they are in violation of law. They can prove that they pay the same amount to a single male as to a single female teacher, so that kind of undercuts any sex-discrimination claim. So far as I know they have not been sued.

  • zippy says:

    A minor point:<>A single individual living alone both is harmed and (at least often) causes harm to society living alone.<>I am not at all sure this is true. I think vocations to the non-religious single life are uncommon, but not nonexistent. I know my own life has been enriched by some of them, -qua- single people. Said differently, I don’t think that the state of being single is necessarily a privation: some (though few) are called to it.<>I am not quite sure of the actual degree to which laws actually forbid paying the “breadwinner” more than others.<>AFAIK it is illegal to discriminate (“disparate impact”) in favor of men, and it is illegal to discriminate based on marital status[*]. Both of those kinds of discrimination are good though, not on the basis of every single particular case, since prudence and judgement are the rule rather than the exception when it comes to individual cases, but definitely on a basis which has a disparate impact.[*] Even if this can be “gotten around” by discriminating based on the number of children, you could be sued for not paying unmarried parents the same as married parents. Part of the point is that sex discrimination qua sex is good, and marital status discrimination qua marital status is good, and that the law prohibits both. It may be that in many cases the law can be gotten around by lying about what we are doing, but we shouldn’t be in a position where we have to get around the law by lying about what we are doing. We ought to be able to forthrightly discriminate qua sex and qua marital status, because doing so is good.(As usual, my contrarian responses to particular points shouldn’t be taken to mean that I don’t appreciate all the other stuff I didn’t comment on!)

  • Tony M says:

    I agree that discrimination on account of gender makes sense and should be legal in some contexts. I am not sure if that’s what we are trying to justify in this case. If a man is the sole breadwinner, he should have the possibility to earn a wage that supports the whole family. On the other hand, if a man is unable to work and his wife is the sole breadwinner, it should be possible for her to earn a wage that supports the whole family. If an employer does this for both the man and the woman, then he is not doing it based on gender as such, but on status as sole breadwinner. If a Catholic institution pays a married man more than a single man, and a married father more than a married man with no kids, then obviously they are discriminating in favor of…marital status? No, not quite, though stupid judges may come to that conclusion and wrongly attack the practice. It is based on status as breadwinner (or an expectation of potentially being the breadwinner) for one or several other persons. If they pay (as a teacher) a married father more on the basis of his children, and decline to pay an unmarried father more on the basis of his children, then this too is discrimination. Is it wrongful? I posited a Catholic institution paying a teacher, because they can argue, (and should argue, even if they lose) that a Catholic cannot live with his paramour and sire children without the benefit of marriage and still teach as a Catholic, because example is louder than words. But this dodge is not so available to other entities and other job categories. But even here, it is not precisely on account of marital status as such that is the difference, it is the marital status (or lack thereof) together with a choice of actions (and lack thereof – refraining As you say, I doubt that an employer would get very far arguing this, but they should be able to. Back to gender: If you are pointing in the direction of saying we should support a system that as a matter of course automatically pays men more than women for the same job, because the men are presumed to be breadwinners of many where the women are not, this is MUCH more problematic. It is abhorrent to justice to put all women in a class for lower wages without examining the individual woman and ascertaining whether she does or does not have the personal situation which actually justifies the differential in pay. This is prejudicial and wrong. And, this also points out the difference between prejudice and discrimination: the latter implies seeing and treating as different (either rightly or not), where the former implies not looking, not even attempting to see if there is a difference before deciding on treatment. We <> ought <> to be discriminating about differences that are real and that matter. Gender matters in some ways for jobs, but not in all ways. Is it gender, or breadwinner status, that matters for paying more?

  • zippy says:

    <>No, not quite, though stupid judges may come to that conclusion and wrongly attack the practice.<>Those judges would be neither stupid nor wrong under the present doctrine of disparate impact.<>If you are pointing in the direction of saying we should support a system that as a matter of course automatically pays men more than women for the same job, because the men are presumed to be breadwinners of many where the women are not, this is MUCH more problematic.<>Two things:(1) I’ve said a lot of times here and at W4 that I’m not proposing a “system” or any kind of always-and everywhere categorical rule which overrides all judgments in particular cases, and I thought the third paragraph of the post made that clear.(2) I think men should be presumed to be the breadwinner and paid more than women generally, since this is the natural order of things, but that there should be plenty of discretionary room for exceptions <>as exceptions<>. In the W4 thread I discussed a widow (who ought to be treated more preferentially than the average man) and a single woman with a revolving bedroom door (who ought not).<>Is it gender, or breadwinner status, that matters for paying more?<>They are and should be highly correlated. Though they are distinct they should not be treated as orthogonal: that is, breadwinners should be treated preferentially and men should be preferentially treated as breadwinners unless there is some serious reason for things to be otherwise in a particular case.

  • Tony M says:

    Zippy, In “disparate impact”, that too is a matter of stupid (or evil) judges. I agree that the doctrine is out there, but it was invented to get around applying the actual law as it actually reads. The judges who agreed with the doctrine and used it in their own cases mainly are too stupid to realize that they are undermining law itself. As to orthogonal reflection, yes, I can go along with that pretty well. I agree that they are correlative.

  • Anonymous says:

    There are so many things wrong with this basic argument I don't know where to begin. You pay people based on performance. Period. Besides, a single woman might have kids and is the breadwinner, or makes more money than the man in the household and is therefore the breadwinner. BTW, I am single and live along, so that makes me selfish, a non-contributing member to society (even though I can perform more volunteer work for the world because I don't have a family). Keep in mind, too, that I have only my income on which to live. Yes, it's my choice to be single, but it's also married people's choice to be married, and they should learn to live with their incomes as well.

  • […] things as men in the same position make the same pay is not a relevant fact. (That they actually shouldn’t be paid as much for the same work is something which must never be proposed at all.  That is even worse than […]

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