Ezra Klein says research shows that Wisconsin’s public employees are not overpaid, but in fact are underpaid. Not so, says Jim Manzi.
I’ve just read the study in question, and my sympathies are with Manzi, inasmuch as the control categories do not seem to me nearly sufficient to capture the real diversity of the work forces. As anybody who has ever met a high-school vice principal can attest, not all masters’ degrees are created equal. (The study controls for lots of things, like sex and ethnicity, but not the ones I’d be interested in, like I.Q. or standardized test scores. It also doesn’t control for such niggling factors as whether those government workers work, which strikes me as something that would be useful to know.)
Bearing in mind that none of this addresses the more fundamental question of whether those government workers are being paid/underpaid/overpaid to do anything necessary or even useful, which admittedly is hard to capture, here’s a thought: Mr. Klein claims to be an empiricist — so, how about an experiment? Let’s have Wisconsin cut its government workers’ pay by 5 percent and see if the state has trouble filling those government jobs. Let’s cut their pay by 10 percent and see if anybody notices.
Anybody want to place a bet on the results of that experiment?
— Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.