A Bleak Future for Wage Growth
Robert VerBruggen’s “conundrum” about wage-growth stalling (“A Wage-Growth Conundrum,” July 31) clears up when you realize that the categories of capital, labor, and productivity as presently defined in government statistics are hopelessly confused. Even VerBruggen admits that counting housing as capital is erroneous and has distorted standard measures of recent capital growth. Far from being a conundrum or an anomaly, weak wage growth in the face of rising returns to capital is inevitable in a system in which labor is regarded as a commodity, and profit of whatever magnitude as the just reward to the owners of capital. As distributist economist John C. Médaille has shown in his book Toward a Truly Free Market, “pure” capitalism leads to the “investor’s dilemma” in which stalling wages lead to flagging consumer demand as capital accumulates at the top with nowhere to go, except into the bank or overseas. The top ten U.S. cash-holding companies have nearly half a trillion dollars sitting around in the U.S., and about two trillion is held by all U.S. companies overseas.
VerBruggen touches on one solution that holds genuine promise when he proposes to curtail powerful monopolistic businesses that engage in “rent-seeking” — using their influence with governments to exclude genuine competition from the market. Unfortunately, in the present political climate, such measures have a snowball’s chances in Hades, but until more middle-class citizens own profitable well-capitalized businesses that they can realistically control, wage growth will continue to elude us.
Karl D. Stephan
San Marcos, Texas
Opening Up Education
Oren Cass’s “Teach to the Rest” (July 31), about diversifying high-school education to facilitate ends other than the traditional, four-year undergraduate education, calls to mind a friend. I’ll call him Chris. Chris is an extraordinary carpenter. Wood does miraculous things in his hands. I’ve seen Chris totter whole days away building tables, shelves, a back porch — you name it. Doing so gives him tremendous pleasure. But that’s a hobby, more or less. To pay the bills, Chris is an assistant principal at a secondary school. That’s a decent gig, but I’ve always wondered whether my friend followed a “traditional” route into suit-and-tie work for no better reason than that that’s the thing to do — check the boxes, etc. — even when he would have been happier, and perhaps better compensated, spending his days in his shop. Mr. Cass suggests that there are many forms of fulfillment, many different routes to professional satisfaction. I imagine that there are more than a few young people out there like my friend. Why should they, too, be shunted into a one-size-fits-all mold?