Lord Freud betrayed his Tory mindset in the phrasing of his response to the question of whether mentally disabled should be paid minimum wage.
However. the underlying question is one which Politician’s and theorist’s have continually evaded; how do you have financial safety net and still incentivise the low paid.
Capitalists obviously favour (putting aside slavery) a piecework basis i.e. worker’s are paid according to how much profit they provide for the employer.
Socialism works from the basis of a flat rate for all.
Neither is totally feasible, because both worker’s and employer’s want a differentiation between what the most able and the least able are paid but those with a social conscience are concerned that those unable to fend for themselves should also have a life worth living.
The crunch comes when you look at the gradations in between the bed-ridden and the record breaking lumberjack type of worker.
There are further echelons that need to be taken into account i.e. the artisans, highly academic professionals, the entertainers, the self-important administrator’s and of course the plutocrats.
The biggest problem lies with the masses of the manual echelon, simply because of their numbers.
The technique, traditionally used by the Civil Service, is to categorise them at various levels, which would seem a reasonable basis for some sort of pay structure. This, in its basic form, has two main flaws.
The first commonly met problem is the rigidity of the Civil Service model, in which all waitresses would have the same grade, regardless of whether they were conscientious and eager to please, or indolent and indifferent to customer needs. Similarly electricians, whether they can only manage to fit a light bulb, or they are able to wire a factory.
You could fit another set of grades but that could become unwieldy, arbitrary and prone to anomalies.
The second problem is a suitable linking to remuneration. Leave aside the perpetual moan of the employer that they can’t afford the agreed pay scale (e.g. Hunt and nurses), or that the agreed scale is out of proportion to the worker input (e.g. the public and M.P. pay).
The real problem lies in pay increments.
Too small an increment can be un-incentivising, or even de-incentivising. e.g. who wants to get out of bed, travel miles, in bad conditions, to work in an inhospitable habitat, for an increment, which after tax, travel costs, food etc. is a deficit income.
Too big an increment raises the problem of those confined to the lowest tier being unable to afford basic necessities.
The last is usually “solved” politically by top-up payments, which negate the next few incremental levels and, thus, shows that Minister’s do not have the intellects they claim for themselves.
It de-motivates the next tier and there is then a levelling down of all grades by political complications, such as family allowances, tax credits and the whole unwieldy benefits structure.
Trade unions’ negotiation’s and Charities try to jiggle the mismatches but their contributions just degenerate into who has the biggest elbows.
None of this is helped by the majority, involved in this melee, seeing upper echelon wages zooming off into the stratosphere supported by Professional bodies (Law Society, IPSA etc.) setting their own remuneration levels without any check on their avarice. It’s not helped by comedians, footballers, and singers being outrageously rewarded for talents, which only marginally set them above the general populace and then, to some extent by virtue of being chosen by self appointed patrons e.g. Britain has Talent, Sky Sports, PAMRA.
There must be a better way but I don’t know it.
On the other hand, rather than just leave it in the air, I’m going to suggest some sort of consensus system such as this:
Agree on some echelons e.g. manual, artisan, professional etc.
Then agree on a grade system within the echelons. Roughly the old Civil Service class system grades and levels, or something similar.
Set everyone’s grade and level according to their present status and income. Essentially fixing the present relative levels of Social valuation of worth.
This would automatically set a range salaries matching each grade and level.
The hard part would then be setting up appropriate panels to adjudicate on movements of salaries within those bands. E.g. grade C, level 3 might be set at £12,000 to £15,000 p.a.. The panel might decide to reduce both these levels, or widen them, or raise one and leave the other fixed.
All such recommendations would be published in their entirety and the whole electorate would be invited to vote on any, or all of the recommendations.
This need not be a serious problem. Voting could take place over the Internet, over a few months, with on-line access at home, or via libraries etc.
Voters would be able to see how the salary bands were changing, pundits could comment and voters (pin numbers being attached to their N.I. Number) could re-cast their votes up until decision day.
It is possible that there might be flurry of activity on decision day but I suspect that alterations might actually taper off as the consensus narrowed.
Another consensus vote (two years later?) would correct people’s expectations.
It might take two or three such votes, before people accepted or rejected such a system.
It might be modified or dumped but at least it would possibly inspire somebody to come up with a better system than the present ballsed up benefits/strikes /food banks mess we have, at present.