… believes that being a high-wage worker is a disadvantage! Think about this common claim. Ponder the incessant refrain that ‘high-wage workers can’t successfully compete, if there is free trade, against low-wage Chinese/Mexican/Malaysian/Indonesian/Vietnamese/[fill-in-the-blank] poor-country workers.’
If being a high-wage worker truly puts that worker at a disadvantage relative to low-wage workers, why do so many of us exert so much effort to become high-wage workers? Are we studying, sweating, and striving to put ourselves at a disadvantage? Why not simply lay back, exert no effort to gain unique and valuable job skills, and then enjoy the stream of ‘advantages’ that come with being low-wage workers?
The protectionist – because he doesn’t understand that wages, being determined on markets, reflect the different values of different workers’ productivities – thinks that high-wage workers in market economies are nothing but lucky beneficiaries of good fortune, rather like winners of lotteries. The protectionist doesn’t understand that a principal reason why a worker’s wage is high is that that worker, because he or she can produce a great deal of value per hour, has other employment options at which he or she could earn wages nearly as high as those that he or she earns in that worker’s current job. The protectionist pities this high-wage worker for his or her predicament at not earning wages so low that he or she becomes attractive to fill low-skilled jobs.
Very strange, that.
The protectionist is someone who cannot understand why my willingness – and it is genuine – to quarterback the New Orleans Saints at an annual wage of about one-half of one percent of the wage that it now pays to its current starting quarterback, Drew Brees, does not cause the Saints organization to fire Brees and to hire me in his place. (And I tell you truthfully that the Saints have yet to contact me about playing quarterback for their team.)