By in Business

Is it Fair to Pay a Brain Surgeon More than a Burger Flipper?

I just read and made a preliminary response to & SimeyC on his post “We need to change our social paradigm?“ on Tsu. (If you're on Tsu you can find it on his profile SimeyC ) His premise seemed to be that no matter what sort of work one performed, one should be paid the same rate. Why is what a brain surgeon does more important than the service a burger-flipper performs? Why does one deserve more pay than the other, since both are equally human. If someone doesn't have what it takes to be a brain surgeon, shouldn't he still be equally rewarded for his humanity in his paycheck?

Keep this in mind. If people were paid equally no matter what job they performed, why would anyone spend years in medical school for a job with terrible hours and horrific responsibility for the lives of others? Why would people take jobs like police officers and firefighters that put their lives on the line every day for the same wage as a retail clerk? Why would people become teachers who spend many extra hours a day planning lessons and grading papers outside the classroom?

Let's take another look at those minimum wage jobs. They do not require that one spend a fortune and take out a student loan to pay for an . That loan will have to be paid back wth something earned. Minimum wage won't pay it back. The future teacher, doctor, scientist, etc. has to sit in a classroom for more years than the minimum wage earner, thus giving up more years when he could have chosen to go surfing or just hang out with friends in the evenings or on weekends while the students are studying.

Most minimum wage earners don't put their lives on the line for others every day as police and fire fighters do, and they don't have to make life and death decisions for other and themselves on a daily basis. Many minimum wage earners don't expect to remain in their jobs, which many see as stepping stones to better jobs that pay more later on. The prospect of earning more is usually what motivates people to go to school or learn a trade like plumbing or auto mechanics that means studying or learning by doing when they could just be having fun. It is the idea of being rewarded which causes people to leave their comfort zones and strive to become a great surgeon, an inventor, or business owner and make sacrifices to do so.

When the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, at first everyone shared the scarce food, resources and profits on anything produced, equally. It was in the charter for the colony to do so. It soon became evident that those who worked hard got no more than those who didn't. And the colony almost starved because people lost their desire to work. (Read William Bradford's eye witness acccount of this, Of Plymouth Plantation for documentation.)

As governor, Bradford had to institute a more capitalistic system where people could more by working harder. The began to increase as people began to be rewarded for their effort. All were equally human and each had instinsic worth, but the colony needed each person to contribute to his full potential to produce enough food for survival.

Productive workers are willing to help the sick and disabled who cannot work, in order that their basic needs are met, but they are not as willing to subsidize a more opulent lifestyle for people who do not choose to develop the skills that others want to pay more for. Do you? Which hard worker hasn't been a little upset at work when she gets paid the same as the person who spends too much time at the water cooler, shirking her work – especially if the hard worker has to make up the slack?

SimeyC is correct that our culture is sick, but not for the reason he gives. It's sick because so many think there should be equal outcomes for unequal effort, time, and money expended. It will be doomed if people no longer see any reason to be as productive as they can be.

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bestwriter wrote on November 19, 2014, 11:19 PM

As usual I have not read your full post but I have the answer. There are many, many factors that go into grading jobs. I was a middle management executive with a multinational company. Then came job analysers - truly professional. They had a bulk of questions to ask me and I answered every single one of them. To my shock I was told I was positioned higher than the role I played. They did not demote me but gave me another job that suited the grade I was in.
I tell my maids sometimes when they indirectly say I do nothing that my brain is more active than theirs and at the end of the day I am fully drained.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 20, 2014, 2:18 AM

I like the questions you ask about the motives people have for choosing their jobs:

"If people were paid equally no matter what job they performed, why would anyone spend years in medical school for a job with terrible hours and horrific responsibility for the lives of others? Why would people take jobs like police officers and firefighters that put their lives on the line every day for the same wage as a retail clerk?"

Very simply: because they are called to that career! Please don't think that police officers or firefighters are paid on par with a doctor, because if they're lucky they get the wage of a teacher or a unionized blue collar worker. Doctors? Well, there are those who do the job for love and those who do it for money. Even here in Canada an OB can earn $20,000 for the 20 minutes or so spent in the delivery room. MY OB once gave me that exact figure. And yet, the nurses, who make maybe $40/hour, did the bulk of the work every time I gave birth.

I don't buy the whole argument that some people ought to be paid more because they spent years studying or racked up hefty student debts, either. If anything, we ought to be protesting the inhuman treatment of medical students, interns and residents, rather than accepting this treatment and using it as a justification to pay doctors more.

BarbRad wrote on November 20, 2014, 2:23 AM

I'm not sure I see completely how your comment is related to what I wrote, but perhaps since you didn't read much of it, that could explain why.

BarbRad wrote on November 20, 2014, 2:40 AM

Some professionals have a call to their professions and some do go into it for the money. I've known both kinds. I do agree that medical students should be treated more humanely and that interns shouldn't have to work 24 hour shifts. I don't think that's good for patients, either. But maybe the reason is that when they become doctors they may have to be able to function when they've just been waked up for an emergency. Nurses do work every bit as hard as doctors if not harder. And they also make life and death decisions. But most have not had the same education and schooling and expense the doctors have. Besides those student loans, they have equipment to buy and office help to pay, so all that money they get doesn't go just to fill their own bank accounts. And then there's the malpractice insurance. Nurses don't have that kind of overhead their pay has to cover.

As to he OB, in this country their malpractice insurance is so high many of them can't afford to practice and have quit. My neighbor across the street is one of them. Which brings us back to the unskilled workers who have invested no time or money in acquiring specialized skills and have no desire to do so. Should they be getting the $40 an hour the nurses get when some of them can't even make change unless the register calculates it for them?

BarbRad wrote on November 20, 2014, 3:30 AM

I think what confuses this issue is distinguishing between the worth society places upon the individual who performs a job and the worth of that job itself to society. Society usually pays more for work it most wants or needs to be done. Supply and demand also play a part. You will pay a garbage man more than a burger flipper or retail clerk because you could cook your own burger or wait longer in line for your purchases, but you don't want to deal with your own garbage or see it in the streets. You will pay the brain surgeon more than the nurse because he is the only one who can fix your problem. Nurses may be scarce, but not as scarce as good brain surgeons.

What I find interesting is that we are willing to pay our athletes and entertainers more than the brain surgeon or the burger flipper. That wold indicate that the culture values the baseball player more than the teacher, the nurse. the doctor. the plumber, or the fireman. It would indicate that the highest value in our culture is to be entertained. And let's not even consider what politicians earn.

bestwriter wrote on November 20, 2014, 3:37 AM

You cannot altogether discard my comment. emoticon :grin: Jobs are analysed and society decides, in general but in specific cases it may change. For example my toilet got clogged and my gardener attended to it. I paid him good money for that.

Scorpie wrote on November 20, 2014, 12:41 PM

The principle idea gives no value to paying your dues. Am I not to reap the rewards of working seven days a week for fifteen years? Studying instead of partying? Saving instead of indulging? Effort and sacrifice is not going to give me a leg-up in a competitive world?


emoticon :tongue:

melody23 wrote on November 20, 2014, 1:04 PM

As you know I will hopefully be graduating university this time next year, hopefully I will then start working as a nurse. Am I in it for the money? Absolutely not! I get less than half of the minimum wage just now through my training and when I qualify I will proudly belong to the lowest-paid degree-only profession in the country. Do I think that's fair? No I don't. I have worked very hard to get where I am and I will have a university degree at the end of it (hopefully) that is not to say that I feel I should get paid more simply because I have a degree- but I do think I should receive a living wage for having people's lives in my hands for twelve hours plus a day. On the flip side of the coin though, I will be earning more than I earned yearly when I worked in the pub for all those years. We do a lot more work than a lot of people think, in fact in most cases you are far more likely to have your life saved by a nurse (directly or indirectly) than a doctor because we are the ones who are there 24/7 monitoring patients and calling in help when needed. I don't necessarily think I should get paid the same as a doctor, they have a level of responsibility that I wouldn't want, but I do think nurses (and a lot of other professions) deserve more for what they do. I would never be able to buy a house on a nurses wage alone, unless I bought a studio flat and I don't think that's right. I work really hard and I think I should have enough money to buy a house at least, but you only get three times your income for a mortgage so I wouldn't be able to afford it based on just my income.

Ellis wrote on November 20, 2014, 4:04 PM

There's very little come back if you lose a burger but lose a patient and there's hell to

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on November 21, 2014, 1:15 AM

I do want my burger-flipper to be well-trained, but I'd much rather have my brain surgeon trained much longer than my burger-flipper. It's education much worth paying extra for.

BarbRad wrote on November 21, 2014, 2:49 AM

Some people are very versatile and have many skills. My husband has gotten very good at fixing clogged toilets.

BarbRad wrote on November 21, 2014, 2:53 AM

A good mechanic should be paid what he is worth. He actually has a lot in common with surgeons. I say that because our very close friend was a mechanic and I spent many hours in his shop watching him work on my car and diagnosing and fixing its problems.

BarbRad wrote on November 21, 2014, 2:54 AM

Quite true. It also hurts emotionally to lose a patient. I've never known a doctor who just shrugged it off.

BarbRad wrote on November 21, 2014, 2:55 AM

I agree.

BarbRad wrote on November 22, 2014, 2:10 AM

I agree nurses should be paid more. They do have unions here.

melody23 wrote on November 22, 2014, 10:03 AM

We have unions but remember the system is so different here. Most nurses work for the National Health Service, so our wage is set by the government. Currently the unions are fighting for a 1% pay rise that we were promised, but it was worded in such a way that very few people were actually entitled to receive it only the people at the top of their respective pay-scale were actually entitled since those at the bottom get a small increase every year for so many years. Wages in the NHS are really difficult to figure out and understand, its all bands and points. The job you have sets your band (auxiliary = band 2, staff nurse = band 5 etc) then your point is to do with how many years you have worked in your job, only its not even as easy as that. I am currently a band 2, and in my second year in my job so I should be a band 2 point 2, only I didn't work enough hours last year to qualify for my increase so I am still on point 1.