Is there any possible way to justify putting a cap on CEO pay?
Should we be having this conversation or even be taking it seriously?
If your answer is no – that we should not be having this conversation or taking the idea of capping CEO pay seriously – what are some of the ethical differences between installing a minimum wage and installing a maximum wage that render the former a serious topic for conversation and the latter nothing but manifest class-jealousy? And what is the significant criterion that determines whether we should or should not take seriously attempts to legislate the wages that a private company can pay its employees?
Notice I’m not asking if we should put a cap on CEO pay: I’m asking if there are any legitimate ethical frameworks out there where capping CEO pay is even theoretically justified. Are there any legitimate ethical frameworks where we as a society – or even just a simple majority of us – can decide that a private company can pay its CEO only up to a certain quantity of ducats? That is, other than exercising our right as consumers to boycott any company we deem pays its CEO too much, can we legally compel a maximum wage for highly-skilled labor?
Many of you will probably say “no” to the questions above, perhaps especially those readers here who consider themselves libertarians.
But what if that company is one of those we will be required to purchase health insurance from? Or what if that company is one that has or continues to directly benefit from government subsidies, such as big banks or agribusiness or defense contractors? What about companies that benefit indirectly from government policies such as sugar tariffs or companies within formerly government-controlled industries that have been privatized?
Do we have the right to restrict CEO pay then, just as we can now restrict the salaries of Senators and Representatives and other emissaries of the government? If we do not have that right, then why don’t we have it? If we do have that right, where does that right end? Or does it all collapse to an ad hoc utilitarianism?
Or class warfare?