In an earlier writeup I explored the nature of the Wage Gap along the axis of prestigious versus non-prestigious work.¬†
Much as I find the ideas in there plausible, I have always been dissatisfied with the argument as a whole, because the issue of "prestige" is not exactly concrete. Moreover, there are some jobs that are VERY prestigious, such as high-level political jobs, that pay remarkably poorly for their position in the world. The best example of this is the President of the United States, who is paid relatively little more than the expenses his position requires. Likewise governors, for all their power, are paid poorly in many states. If we were to take my earlier article at face value, this situation would be absurd, because prestige ought to be translated to money. At the very least, the men sitting at the top of the social heap ought to be a position to negotiate a more fitting salary without even needing a union behind them.
In light of this paradox, I propose a different viewpoint from which to examine the wage gap: the question of community-building jobs versus money-building jobs.
Now, the issue of the Wage Gap is typically presented as a matter of men's pay versus women's pay. The common phrase is that women earn 70 percent of what men earn. Yet people who have studied the Wage Gap in the U.S. have not been able to find a situation where women are blatantly paid 30% less than men for doing the same work. There are no bosses who are obtuse enough to do this. Yet women, ON AVERAGE, are poorer than men. Why should this be?
The most common explanation is that women tend to take the professions that are paid more poorly. Schoolmarm, social worker, etc. The question, then, is why are these professions paid poorly? Surely being a social worker takes as much training and skill as working an oil rig? Surely being a good teacher is as rare and valuable as being a good CEO, and takes even more certification? Why would one job, taking as much skill and serving as vital a function as another, make someone less money?
I think the key is that one type of job builds money while the other type of job builds community. Which is to say, capitalism is built to reward commerce-creating jobs and ignore (or punish) community-building efforts.¬†
We live in a world where the Merchant Class gained power over the aristocrats by way of commerce and industry. The world they built is based on making things in order to sell to make money. Selling massive amounts of goods; selling entertainment; construction; the things that make currency flow and make currency-based economies grow. People who work in the jobs that produce and sustain an industrial economy can skim some of the profits off the top for themselves because, after all, they earned it through their work. Other people who work in the jobs that involve handling the money can skim some of the profts off the top for themselves because, through complex financial wizardry involving loans and interest and stock prices and so on, they helped the money grow.
This leaves community-building professions somewhat in the lurch, because they're not involved in commerce. The world of modern capitalism is run by people who don't always know how, or want to, ¬†shuffle some of the profits they make towards the people who build community. In many cases, the captains of capitalism put the needs of their mode of being in opposition to the things that make a community. For example, the issue of maternity leave, which tends to put a halt in a woman's career path and leaves her trailing behind ever after. Companies don't want to accommodate the construction of families if it gets in the way of making money.
Where women come in to this issue is the fact that up until recently, the expectation that women uphold civilization and run families has gone unchallenged. They're the ones who are expected to raise the kids, nurture the kids, listen to the feelings of other people, help folks get along, keep the community going. That's not IMPOSSIBLE to monetize, but it's hard, because building community usually requires a certain degree of generosity with resources, in opposition to capitalism's focus on gathering wealth to indoviduals. I have come across numerous accounts about the ways in which communities of poor people ask each other to spare five or ten bucks now and then, and how do you refuse?
Moreover, capitalism supports individualism, but community has a distressing tendency to punish individualism for the sake of group survival. There's a reason people called Soviet Russia "MOTHER Russia". Communism acts like your annoying Polish grandma who who always watches you from her window and smacks you for saying you want to go to the city and become a painter. She makes sure the family gets along, sure! At the expense of your autonomy.¬†
There's a reason that people call America "UNCLE sam." Capitalism acts like your fun uncle who lets you do all kinds of crazy stuff, even if it's out of sight of your grandma and might get you into trouble and makes you late for dinner. He keeps you from becoming a Dull Boy, sure! At the expense of connecting with the rest of the family.
The merchant classes have set up a world that rewards the fun uncle and punishes the grandma.
Anyone who wants to follow in Grandma's footsteps loses out on all the money the uncle is making. Worse, these days, capitalism seems to have set itself DIRECTLY against community where before it saw fit to ignore the issue. Want to keep your old neighborhood? Fuck you, we've got a highway to build. Want to make it easy to live in your old neighborhood? Fuck you, we're replacing the laundromat with a gelato store. Want to stay home and live with your parents in adulthood? Fuck you, you're supposed to go 500 miles away to college and then never return. Want to pool your money with your friends and live in a big house all together? Fuck you, you're going to lower local property values. Want to get rid of a guy who's sexually harassing every woman in the industry? Shut the hell up, he's making us a pile of money. Want to have a kid? Have fun seeing your career stall.
And this is where the question of poorly-paid governors is answered. There are few politicians in the country who are well-rewarded for their work, save for the ones in D.C. who can vote themselves pay raises. The rest, well...governorships and state legislative positions are not commerce-building jobs. They facilitate commerce, sure. They make laws easing resitrctions on commerce, they entice businesses to come to their states, they hobnob with the rich guys so that the rich guys will favor their state. You know how that goes. But state-level politics is not directly involved in the business of shuffling money in and out of a till like a banker or a bakeror a candlestick maker. They do law, not commerce. Their job is not a business; it does not grow in the manner of business. The only thing they can do to make mroe money is to vote themselves raises, but unlike the people in D.C. they can't do it willy-nilly because state budgets must be balanced. The men who make the laws at state level are, on the surface of things, poorer than the businessmen they hobnob with.
Now you have an idea of why state-level politics involves substantial corruption. John G. Rowland, late the semi-loved governor of my home state, was caught accepting all kinds of gifts, and why did he do it? He felt embarrased by the difference in wealth between him and his friends. Rod Blagojevich, late the unloved governor of Illinois, was caught offering to sell a state legislative seat, and why? Well, it's illinois politics, you might say, but the more immediate answer is that he wanted the money.¬†
Rich men do not need to engage in that sort of corruption. They can just lobby for tax breaks, and make a lot more money than by petty corruption. You tend to see corruption most among government officials who are paid less money than seems appropriate for the level of power they wield in society. This is why police officers in India take bribes. How else are they going to make extra cash? Police work isn't a commercial business either.
Capitalism rewards the hard work of government about as well as it rewards school teachers. Whatever job is geared towards building community, whoever wants to make it their life's work to maintain the lives of their friends and family and neighbors, suffers from being neglected by modern capitalism. Whatever job is done for something other than profit is left in the lurch by a profit-hungry world.¬†
The biggest eception to this, on the surface level, appears to be the profession of doctors. Doctors make a ton of money, right?
Specialists make a lot of money. To be quite precise, they are GIVEN a lot of money for their work by certain institutions (hospitals) that MAKE a lot of money off of charging insurance companies an arm and a leg for medical procedures. And wouldn't you know it, all the young doctors these days want to be specialists!
Leaving primary-care physicians in the lurch, and leaving rural practicioners in the fucking dust.
Capitalism, in short, has created a situtation where there's a conflict of interest between wealth and community, and modern women still gravitate towards the latter path, so they get the shitty end of the stick.