Carol Platt Liebau: Comparable Worth Isn't "Equal Pay" -- It's Socialism

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Comparable Worth Isn't "Equal Pay" -- It's Socialism

Here is a perniciously titled little story from USA Today: "Roberts Scoffed At Equal Pay Theory."

It's misleading (and liable to be misunderstood -- see this post at the Huffington Post -- "Roberts Scoffed At Equal Pay For Women").

What John Roberts opposed, rightly, was something called "comparable worth." And it's not about equal pay, it's about socialism. Under "comparable worth" theory, the government -- yes, the government -- would decide what pay a particular job was "worth" and then mandate that it be compensated accordingly. So under that theory, it could be decreed that a secretary be paid the same as a logger, despite significant differences in the danger, degree of difficulty, unpleasantness, requisite skill level etc. of the two jobs.

Feminists were big on comparable worth in the late '70's and early '80's because, in their view, the equal pay laws (i.e. Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) weren't "solving" the problem of the disparities in pay between men and women fast enough. Accordingly, they decided it would be preferable to let "Big Daddy Government" take over the problem than to let the market work -- even though disparities in pay can, even today (as noted here and here) be attributed to factors other than gender discrimination.

There is no reason to doubt that John Roberts supported "equal pay" under the law. He didn't support "comparable worth." Thank heaven.

And, if -- as the headline states -- he "scoffed" at the theory, well, kudos to him. It is one of the silliest relics of '70's feminist theory, and -- more than anything -- is probably responsible for the stereotype of women as being unable to understand economics. The proponents of "comparable worth" certainly didn't.


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