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Equal pay law may create more problems than solutions

David Boze asks if a man can chip twice as much as his female counterpart, would it be discriminatory if a construction company paid him a higher wage? (AP)

Imagine being a business owner and learning that a highly competent labor force was available to do the work you needed done, and they were willing to take only $.77 on the dollar.

Since a big chunk of your expenses come from labor costs, you would leap on this opportunity and you would hire that labor force before you hired those holding out for higher wages. You might even offer $.80 or more on the dollar so as to attract the best of this under-valued labor force. It would be a no-brainer. Every competitor left paying even part of their staff the inflated wages would lose to your new competitive edge.

Related: Equal pay? Ending discrimination starts with sharing your salary

Instead of that happening, however, businesses are willfully paying more than they need to in order to discriminate against this labor force, and not one seeks to take advantage of this self-destructive prejudice of others and obtain a competitive advantage. Even companies owned by a member of the same group that receives the lower wages refuses to take advantage of this opportunity.

In this example, there are no outside social forces making hiring this labor force more difficult (as was the case in the Jim Crow era). So how could this self-destructive behavior of businesses be explained? Either they are insanely self-destructive (and in some cases self-hating), or there is another reason for the compensation difference that has not been accounted for.

I am, of course, writing about the call for new laws mandating “equal pay” for women because of the “discrimination evident” in the wage gap. The example above alone shows that the issue is vastly more complex than a “wage gap” argument lets on. But here’s another example: two people, one man and one woman, are working for a construction company and using a jackhammer to chip concrete. If the man can chip twice as much as his female counterpart, would it be discriminatory if the construction company paid him a higher wage?

What if the male and female employees were at an accounting firm, both doing the same job, but the man takes on more accounts than his female counterpart because she values receiving flexibility of schedule more than a higher paycheck. Would the pay discrepancy be a problem? What if both work at a law firm, both do the same job, but she makes more than he does because she was more aggressive in negotiating her salary? Has he been discriminated against?

There are numerous studies about the “pay gap” between men and women and while it is stylish to cheer adamantly at putting an end to the “unfairness” from the halls of the Legislature or the seats of the Oscars, the issue is far more complicated than the “discrimination” reasoning so frequently assumed.

Having government run “to the rescue” may actually create more unfairness than it cures. That’s not to say that there’s never sexism or racism in employment. There undoubtedly is. But smearing the wage gap as primarily or even significantly a product of discrimination is political manipulation.

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