It’s obscene when…

By Murray Bourne, 14 Jun 2008

There are huge imbalances between the wealth of the rich, and the poverty of the 4 billion souls who are earning less than $2 per day.

Image source: Business Week

The salaries of golfers, footballers, cricketers, movie stars, Wall Street financiers and corporate chiefs are rather immoral, especially when you think about the recent rapid increase in the number of poor in the world due to rising energy and food costs.

According to Bloomberg (source has disappeared), the top football players recently earned in salary and endorsements:

1. Ronaldinho €23.0 million
2. David Beckham €18.0 million
3. Ronaldo €17.4 million

In US dollars, Ronaldinho is getting around $30 million — for kicking a ball around a grassy field. That's about $14,400 per hour, assuming that he does around 40 hours of 'work' per week (training, playing football and smiling for cameras) and doesn't take a holiday. Not bad.

Meanwhile, the $2-per-day-poor are earning 33 cents per hour, assuming they 'work' the same number of hours per week. Unrealistic comparison I know, but there's something very wrong with this.

In Bart's $11m scientology d'oh-nation [in News, no longer available], we read about one of the voice talents in The Simpson's, the popular TV show.

THE voice of Bart Simpson last year handed a stunning $11.2 million over to her beloved Church of Scientology - twice as much as Tom Cruise.

Nancy Cartwright, 50, made the donation as part of Scientology's Global Salvage effort, which aims to "de-aberrate" Earth - meaning to rid mankind of psychology ills and other "aberrant" behavior.

Cartwright can certainly handle the financial blow. She's been earning $280,000 an episode on The Simpsons since 2004.

That's $280,000 per episode. Wow. Assuming that she needs to do a few audio takes more than once, she's maybe working for (say) 8 hours for each episode, or $35,000 per hour.

Now let's turn to the young, fresh graduate teacher that I met in Cambodia recently. He was heading out to teach in some remote place in the hills, and his starting salary was US$40 per month. So that's only just $1.33 per day and this represents maybe 20 cents per hour.

Yes, I know we value different things in different cultures — and we are willing to pay for what we value. But what value is there in having 2/3 of the world living in abject poverty? How can that be sustained? Is Ronaldinho really worth 72,000 times as much as the Cambodian teacher, who is doing far more to reduce poverty and give hope to poor villagers?

Poverty is a global problem and needs global solutions. The next President of the USA must regard poverty reduction as a high priority and he needs to ensure the removal of trade barriers and farm subsidies that help to keep the poor, poor.

And maybe we need to re-look at the commercial system that allows football clubs to "buy" stars like Ronaldinho for such ludicrous amounts.

I live in hope.

See the 20 Comments below.

20 Comments on “It’s obscene when…”

  1. Osceno è … « In teoria says:

    [...] calcoli per arrivare alla cifra finale. Per conoscere l’argomento date uno sguardo a questo post e riflettete mentre guardate le partite del capionato [...]

  2. Murray says:

    [From Zac] Here's a translation of what BobCarr wrote in his blog, in the comment above. The name of his blog is In teoria, which means "In Theory" (it includes mathematics topics, and I gather he is a math instructor):

    I endure hard critics because the blog langue; naturally I have the ready excuse: end of scholastic year, scrutinies, papers to predispose, reunions etc the truth is that I have not had great ideas in this period but, sensitive to the critics, supplies plundering the blog other people's. I have found this interesting article in blog (you do not ask what means to me) but this time I do not have own wants of tradurlo in Italian, therefore the interested ones will have to make a small effort. The argument is how much never puts into effect them: a comparazione on how much earns a player of soccer to the tiny respect to a Cambodian teacher. Naturally the argument is how much never statistical mathematician and: us several calculations want in order to arrive to the final figure. In order to know the argument given a look this post and you reflect while watched the games of the European capionato one.

    [Translation by Babelfish.]

  3. Steven says:

    Sheesh - what's wrong with a bit of football idol worship?

    At least no-one gets hurt and it is good entertainment. Sometimes you are too strict about these things.

    If Ronaldinho is worth that much to the club and to the sponsors, good luck to him. If you got it, flaunt it - and make money from it.

  4. Peter says:

    I agree with Zac.

    Western values are all wrong - we have been duped by the advertisers and the marketers to believe that entertainers are worth millions, while social workers (and teachers) are worth s**t. Good to see someone making a statement about it.

    And Steven - is it really true that no-one gets hurt because of football? Ever seen the result of a riot by football club supporters? It's not pretty.

  5. Ed says:

    "for kicking a ball around a grassy field" is an awfully demeaning comment.

    Surely, he is using highly integrated mind / body muscular synergies, to dexterously move a spherical shaped object of varying elasticity, in parabolic curves through minutely estimated trajectories.

    So ipso facto he deserves every buck he gets!

  6. Mohamed falaah says:

    The god created every thing in balance. For example If some one is rich there are people equally poor. There is balance. Bad people and good people. Right and wrong. Beautiful and ugly. You forgot to except those. Think those players are extreamly hard to find! So rare their prizes skyrockets!

  7. Murray says:

    I hardly think there is balance when billions are poor and hungry and a few hundred million are rich and obese...

  8. Pheps says:

    i believe that money goes where there is hard working works

  9. Adam Smith says:

    Good heavens, use some of your neurons! People are not paid what we THINK they are worth. How do you want to dictate the assignment of resources in this case? Do you want a government bureaucrat deciding what people are worth? What if I don't agree, and I believe a physicist is worth 10 times the value of a social worker, and you think a social worker is worth 5.6 times the value of a physicist? How about the fact that the footballer gives enjoyment to 1,000,000 times more people than a teacher does and is paid accordingly? How about basic supply and demand? What will comparable worth do to the allocation of labor? People will flood into occupations due to the high pay, not according to the ... Oh, forget it! I'm wasting my time on such an elementary topic. I thought comparable worth died years ago, and now I see people still believe it.

  10. Murray says:

    Hello "Adam Smith" and thanks for your input.

    You did manage to inspire me to use some neurons, so I went and found out some more about the 18th century father of modern economics, Adam Smith.

    His notion of the "invisible hand" is relevant to my post:

    In The Wealth of Nations and other writings, Smith demonstrated that, in a free market, an individual pursuing his own self-interest tends to also promote the good of his community as a whole through a principle that he called "the invisible hand". He argued that each individual maximizing revenue for himself maximizes the total revenue of society as a whole, as this is identical with the sum total of individual revenues. [Source]

    OK - so the issue here is perhaps that you and I have a different view of the extent of "society as a whole". Within the rich, western world, it may be fine to pay an entertainer vast amounts because he has value as an entertainer and "gives enjoyment" as you say.

    But where I'm coming from is that "society as a whole" is actually the whole world.

    My feel is that it is not fine to pay those vast sums when you have billions living in abject poverty. While the footballer may provide an avenue for lifting a small number out of that poverty (by inspiring some kid to practice hard so that he becomes a highly paid professional player), it is far more likely that the teacher can help to lift far more people out of poverty by giving them an education and increasing their options a thousand-fold.

    I don't accept that the footballer is "maximizing total revenue" for everyone. He's just maximizing it for himself and a small number of advertisers and promoters.

    You're right though - there's no workable mechanism to ensure a more fair and equitable salary structure. But surely we should try...

  11. Arlo says:

    Sports are valuable. Alternatively, we could have more wars, but I prefer sports.

    Of course, teachers are also valuable. and should never be mistreated

  12. Murray says:

    Thanks for the comment, Arlo. I totally agree we should have sports rather than wars, and if it takes fortunes to attract people to the former rather than the latter, then I'll change my stand immediately.

    Thanks for the support of teachers.

  13. Joshua E says:

    If you don't want these stars to have all their money, STOP WATCHING AND BUYING THEIR ALBUMS. Don't tax them for their success!!! Once again, I was hoping that you could keep math separate from your political views, but so far it appears wrong.
    Giving poor people money doesn't solve the problem! I know of a young man who's only dream in life was to fake injuries to get more money from the Feds via welfare. That is what this "equality" stuff brings up...If you don't work, don't expect any rewards. Taking from the successful doesn't sound wise to me.

  14. Josh says:

    4 Billion making under 2 dollars a day? What is your source?

  15. Josh says:

    Pheps is completely work hard, you will have success. Giving the poor money has not solved the problem! We have spent billions of dollars on the "War on Poverty", and all we have is people dependant on the government. A story to show you this.
    My parents had a foster-child in their home who was from a very poor neighborhood. My mom asked him what he wanted to do in life, and instead of talking about his dreams, he said he had only one purpose in life.
    He would fake injuries and other disabilities so he could get more money from welfare. When you take away the principle of living your life to be better than you are, you have a people without a purpose or a hope. No reason for hope, and there is few things worse than a person with no hope for his life or for his future.

  16. Rachel says:

    @Josh: The article wasn't talking about giving handouts for the poor. It was suggesting that there should be more equality in pay for work done.

    For example, the poor coffee farmer who gets a few measly cents for each cup of coffee, while Starbuck$ charges several dollars for the end product is scandalous.

    Not handouts - fair pay.

  17. Murray says:

    Josh - There's a big difference between giving money to someone in a rich country (with plenty of social security perks) and providing opportunities to the poorest of the poor.

    You're right - handouts breed dependency — if the person has plenty of other choices. Your family was giving choices to the foster child but he was abusing his opportunities.

    However, the Cambodian teacher I was talking about in the article was not asking for a handout. It is my view that he is worth more than the few dollars a day he was going to earn.

    Rachel - I agree with you about the coffee farmers. It's the trade practices of the richer countries (strong pressure from the farmers of USA, Japan and some European countries have created this situation) that guarantee an unfair outcome.

  18. Josh says:

    Yes, but its not the United States fault that Cambodia is the way it is. If somebody has been genuinely successful, you shouldn't take from him and give his money to the homeless guy on the street!
    You can't say that its a lack of natural resources, so its not like these people live in an underpriviliged place on Earth. Africa is a prime example. The amount of natural resources there are immense, but the majority of the people live in abject poverty, simply because of a complete lack of spiritual, moral, and governmental foundation. On the other hand, Switzerland, and Singapore for that matter, are both very prosperous countries even when there is very little natural resources located there.
    Lastly, most rich people aren't given money....they make it.
    Big difference...

  19. Josh says:

    I wish your teacher friend all the best, and yes, its a shame that the standard of living there is so low...but once again, its not the US or the E.U's fault that this is the case. Nobody gave the US handouts, and we have become the greatest nation on Earth(a little patriotism there). It is my understanding that the US is helping with the Cambodian problem, according to the CIA World Factbook, and I'd like to know who's doing more to help Cambodia than we are!

  20. Arvind says:

    I agree with you with a minor difference. Atleast, these football players are not dancing vulgar and parading nude in front of the so called intellectual celebrity class of the society.
    The salary discrimination in this world has always been there so as the less educated persons earning more and higher educated persons dying in poverty.
    We can improve this provided we are honest, but I am sorry to observe that nobody in this world is honest. If you are honest, then surely you are poor.
    Millionaires who are perceived to be honest, are merely excellent actors.


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