Friday, February 08, 2008

Will "comparable worth" become a campaign issue?

From the Wall Street Journal:

There are actually two versions of comparable worth legislation, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The former is co-sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama; the principal sponsor of the latter is Sen. Hillary Clinton (Mr. Obama is a co-sponsor). Both would push companies to set wages based not on supply and demand -- that is the free market -- but on some notion of social utility. The goal is to ensure that jobs performed mostly by men (say, truck drivers) are not paid more than those performed mostly by women (paralegals, perhaps).

President Ronald Reagan correctly called comparable worth "a cockamamie idea." A great lesson of economic theory, not to mention historical experience, is that government-set wages and prices not only curtail freedom, but lead to shortages, surpluses and market disruptions.

I may be wrong, but I don't think many mainstream economists would defend this kind of legislation, regardless of party affiliation.

Here is a previous post on the topic of comparable worth.