Inequality And The Gold Standard

11/27/2020 David Howden

Imagine that you earn $40,000 a year and your boss doubles you at $80,000 a year. Business was good to you both in 2013, and you received a 25% raise for your efforts. Not bad, and your boss gets to share in this good fortune too with an extra $25,000 (about 30%). You’re going to make $50,000 in 2014 and your boss will pull in $105,000.

Are you happy with this deal? Probably. But wait, income inequality just increased! Your boss originally outpaced you by 100%, but now his salary is 110% higher than yours.

To read the brouhaha going around right now, this situation is cause for alarm. Income inequality has increased and despite the fact that everyone is doing better than they once were, one group is doing relatively better.

What about if we reverse the example, starting from the original salaries? Instead of having a great year, imagine things were very bad and salary cuts are going around. You get a 25% pay cut so that you will now be earning $30,000 a year, and because he has more responsibility about the direction of the business and its lack of success, your boss gets a larger pay cut of $25,000. (This situation is the mirror image of the first example.)

You are making much less than you did last year. Are you upset about this? Probably. But wait, apparently there is a silver lining. Your boss now “only” makes about 80% more money than you, versus the 100% salary differential that existed last year. Income inequality decreased!