Free Markets Rule! Free Markets Suck!

A common meme in our city centers on the unfairness of how much some people earn versus what the typical senior earns. Of course, this is typically to bemoan tax rates and to pretend to care of the plight of seniors. You know the meme, “How can a [substitute a position] earn that much when we have so many seniors on fixed incomes?”

Ironically, I most often hear it coming from “conservatives” where, in every other circumstance, the free market reigns supreme and how dare there be any hand, other than an invisible one, that dare inflict itself upon the free market! So free markets reign supreme… except when “conservatives” don’t like the beneficiaries of said free market.

A while back there was quite a hubbub in the city about the city’s web page. Well, let me clarify: first there was a hubbub about whether the city should have a Web page — it’s true: folks actually argued the city should have no web page whatsoever ‘cus it’s way more efficient to inform the public by carrier pigeon here even though technology moves along at unprecedented speeds everywhere else. (Umm, I kind of made up the carrier pigeon part but you get the idea.)

Anyway, the second hubbub was that we had to pay money to hire web designers and web designers — you guessed it–  make more money than seniors and most people in the city! Thus they lament at how is it possible for web designers  to make so much money when it’s so ridiculously simple to create a web site for a municipality. Indeed, so simple that we could even get high school students to do it. For free!

I think it’s more than clear precisely what game is being played here. Namely, the game is to devalue the professional skills required to perform the job to justify their gripe against the market wage of the profession. The conservative embrace of this position in light of their self-professed crush on free markets is a delicious bit of hypocrisy on top of the sundae of conservative cognitive dissonance.

So when I read this comment from Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler (Mohawk Compass:Council approves golf course rates, new superintendent position) ,  I was struck by the utter silence on the excessive nature of the salary and amazingly, a suggestion that the salary could be higher, much higher :

“I was at the discussion last week at the commission meeting, and they were concerned because the ranges do go up to $80,000 for this position. I would hope that we could get someone who is really well qualified and not be locked into that $55,000 if the individual were looking for something more. I realize we have budget issues but our biggest problem at the course has been maintenance and the condition of the course. If we don’t hire somebody who really knows what they’re doing, well you’ve defeated everything in bringing out the [consultants] from Robert Trent Jones, ” said Hatzenbuhler.

For the record, I happen to believe markets work fairly well , not perfectly nor always fairly, in setting salary so the point of my post is not to dispute or challenge what salary ranges fit this position. I honestly don’t care about the salary assuming the hire is well qualified and the salary is competitive. Why? Because no rational person would believe that performing a job will be done for free by high school students or for a fraction of what the market rate is for qualified people.

No,  the point of my post is a simple question: why does this hire draw none of the usual rhetoric on how much people make and high taxes and seniors on fixed incomes and why can’t we get high school kids to do it and on and on? Why such silence?

I think the answer lies in which professionals we’re talking about. If we’re talking about teachers, firefighters, web designers , then free markets suck and there’s no way those jobs are worth as much as they demand on the free market Seriously, what value do well qualified and skilled educators contribute to our community and society? I daresay nothing compared to a lush green.

Apparently, the invisible hand of the free market is a pat on the back for some professions while for some of us, it’s merely to slap us across the face.

 

 

 

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