Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

Total Pageviews

Monday, September 25, 2017


Is the US economy sufficiently productive so that an absolutely equal distribution of Gross National Income to the 330 million Americans would offer each worker enough so that he or she would be willing to do the job for which he or she was best suited, assuming some small adjustments for night work and the like, as suggested in comments?  Well, GNI is currently about 18.75 trillion dollars.  That works out to a bit less than $60,000 per person per year, or $240,000 for a household of four.  I think the answer is Yes.  Oh, I am down with paying LeBron James more, and also Serena Williams and Meryl Streep and Bill Gates and Keith Olberman.  What the hell.  


Jerry Brown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry Brown said...

I am afraid you deleted my comment which is not all that insightful but I will repost it anyways since you asked :) And you seem far less klutzy than I am with computers so please don't worry.

No. I think. First, I think you are assuming total income gets divided equally between all people, whether they work or not. Many people do not work- they are retired, or sick, or children, or students, or raising their children, or just rather don't want to work for some other reason. Having done many miserable jobs as a worker, I think it is safe to assume I wouldn't generally have done them in the first place if I was going to get paid for just sitting around anyways. There are many, many more miserable but important and productive jobs in other fields than I have had to do in the field of construction, so if national income was just divided up equally regardless of work status I think national income would drop precipitously. Because a lot of the really crummy, hard, difficult, dangerous, disgusting work would just not get done. Why would anyone do it under that scenario?

s. wallerstein said...

If there are some people whom you'd pay a bit more to, then probably there are some people whom you'd pay a bit less to.

Who would be on your "pay less than the per person norm" list besides obviously Donald J. Trump and a few other choice Republicans?

Jerry Fresia said...

It appears to me that the obsession with solving puzzles may be at the heart of the Rawls fascination. Therefore, I feel compelled to bring in Fast Eddy. Now, as fate would have it, I am unable to find my favorite quote of his that had to do
with a rather splendid summary, across time, of what he called "surplus grabbers." One of the nice things about this
little summary was how neatly Fast Eddy explained how surplus grabbers, in every age, are able to have the rest of the population view this surplus grabbing as just. In other instances, Fast Eddy has provides wonderful examples of this "encoding" process. For example:

"Each of us is born into an historical, social, economic, and cultural moment that shapes who we are and how we experience the world long before we are old enough to reflect on such things thoughtfully....Had I been an eleventh century Frankish serf or a first century B. C. Roman senator or a Mayan priest or a Mongol horseman, or indeed a nineteenth century British MP, not only would my beliefs be quite different, so even would be the psychodynamic organization of my personality."

In our time and place, cultural encoding has issued in the belief that it is quite possible for the aggregation of activity by market actors, each pursuing his or her private interests, to issue in a just distribution of goods and services, albeit unequal. But the more egalitarian minded among us, not content with surplus grabbing in the first place, might ask what amount of money would be "enough," equally distributed, for market actors to take up the job for which he or she was best suited.

And answer of course is that, for surplus grabbers, no amount of money is ever "enough" - unless, that is, we suspend the encoding principle altogether and, perhaps, shed the psychodynamic organization of our personalities. But then we would be in murky "new man" territory. Best stick with rubik's cubes.

s. wallerstein said...

Some of us have such flawed and neurotic personalities that it's fairly clear to us how much money is enough and how much money is just ridiculously more than we need or even want.

Jon Culp said...

In light of what Jerry Brown said above, and as implied (I think) in what Prof Wolff said, if anything it seems as though it is the grueling, low-status, drudgery-filled jobs that would need to be "incentivized" with higher pay, not the high-status, glory-laden ones. I'm sure many people have made that point before, but I don't recall seeing it mentioned yet here.

Jerry Brown said...

Jerry Fresia, who is this Fast Eddy that you are referring to? I gather he is not a Roman Senator or a Mayan priest or a number of other things, but other than that I am not familiar with him. He sounds like a fascinating character though, even if he doesn't claim to be hundreds or thousands of years old.

Jerry Fresia said...

Jerry Brown:

Fast Eddy is none other than Professor Wolff who when he is captured by the aesthetic of articulating ideas masterfully and cleanly, having a purity and directness that never becomes banal, as though the articulation could not have been otherwise, he just cannot miss. ( "Fast Eddy" is a character played by Paul Newman in the The Hustler. Professor Wolff, on occasion, has revealed himself as Fast Eddy in several blogs and I thought his readers might recall that avatar.)

BTW: I was in error; the passage I was searching for was not about "surplus grabbers," but "surplus getters." Here it is:

"In virtually every known society, the surplus is appropriated -- taken -- by some relatively small subset of the population, with the result that the members of that subset live better than the rest of the members of the society. We know these appropriators as kings, princes, oligarchs, pharaohs, priests, generals, landed aristocrats, tyrants -- and as entrepreneurs, merchants, advertising executives, lawyers, professors, and elected politicians. Almost always, the appropriators trick out their appropriations with justifications, rationales [or rationalizations] designed to persuade those from whom the surplus is taken of the rightness of the appropriation. The surplus getters suggest that they are bigger, stronger, more handsome, more charismatic, smarter, more productive, blessed by the Gods, sanctified by immemorial tradition, chosen by a vote of the people, riding the wave of history. And for the most part, those from whom the surplus has been taken -- the expropriated -- accept these rationales, sometimes grudgingly, quite often willingly or even enthusiastically."

Anonymous said...

I thought you were talking about Fast Eddy Vrodolyak, of Chicago.

Jerry Brrown said...

Thanks Jerry F. I guess I was right about Eddy being an interesting character. And not too far off on the age thing either...