by Don Boudreaux on April 17, 2015

in Myths and Fallacies, Prices

Here’s a letter to the Huffington Post:

Hillary Clinton insists that “[t]here’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker” (“Hillary Clinton Blasts Pay For CEOs, Hedge Fund Managers In Campaign Kickoff,” April 15).

Well now.  As a speaker Ms. Clinton is paid, on average, $300,000 per talk; as a speaker I am paid, on average, $1,000 per talk.  As a speaker, therefore, Ms. Clinton is paid 300 times more than I am paid!  Is “something wrong”?  Is the market for speakers rigged unfairly in favor of famous and politically connected speakers such as Ms. Clinton, and against obscure and ordinary speakers such as me?  Is Ms. Clinton part of a nefarious network of greedy speaker-insiders who profit unjustly at the expense of myself and other more-typical speakers by manipulating the speaker market?  Should government intervene into the speaker market to remedy this 300-to-1 ratio in speaker fees?  Would the amounts that event organizers pay me to speak go up if government ensures that Ms. Clinton’s speaker fee is pushed down?

Clearly not.

Although I reject everything that Ms. Clinton stands for (and proclaims in her speeches!), I’m quite sure that her high fee accurately reflects the value to her audiences of having her speak, just as my modest fee accurately reflects my value as a public speaker.  So unless Ms. Clinton is prepared to conclude, solely because her speaker pay is 300 times that of typical speakers, that she profits unjustly at my and other typical speakers’ expense, she has no basis for asserting that a 300-to-1 difference in pay in other industries and lines of work is “wrong.”

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

UPDATE: Jon Murphy’s comment here reminds me that I wanted to append to this letter this analysis from the Washington Post of Ms. Clinton’s claim.


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