Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why are Athlete's Paid More Than Teachers?

I recently got involved in a discussion on Facebook on this exact topic. It seems like these are always the two occupations that are compared. The answer is relatively simple, although unpalatable to school teachers. I have to say that the teachers in this discussion were honest about the realities of their profession, although unappreciative of the athlete's. I enjoyed the discussion and thought I might work through my thoughts in greater depth here. Facebook is so limiting.

How is a salary determined on the free market? The basic answer is whatever one has to pay to get the needed number of people with those skills to do the job. That number is affected by the skills or investment that is required to be trained for the profession and the risks involved. How strongly society desires and invests in a profession is also a factor. The professional athlete has skills that only a few people in the country have and the needed dedication to develop them. We desire to see the very best play a sport and are willing to pay good money for that opportunity. Businesses realize that and pay good money to advertise in the sporting arena. An athlete needs to demand his share of the pie. He will be at the top of his ability for only a few short years. The average NFL player is in the league only about 3 years. If he plays more than five years his expected lifespan drops to around 50 years. Many people want his job. If he drops in his ability the slightest bit, he will be out on the street. But for the time he is at his peak, it is worth it to the team owners to pay him his perceived value and he is deemed to be worth it. The risk is high so the reward should be great to those who take it. We can argue whether society should appreciate football or other sports so much, but that is a different discussion. In a free market, citizens are allowed to decide how to spend their time and dollars as they wish as long as it is not illegal or immoral.

Teachers.... Their profession does not participate in the free market system. Most schools are run by the government. Teachers themselves belong to a union, which determines their wages irregardless of their performance. There is no motivation, other than internal self-motivation, to improve their skills and performance. Once they are given tenure, they can't even be fired for poor performance.
When the pilgrims first came over, they set up their fields and gardens according to socialistic principles. Everyone was to work hard and then they would be given what they needed without respect to what they contributed. All history students know what resulted... 'the starving time'. The following year they went to a free market system where everyone was responsible for their own plots of land and gardens, they had a bountiful harvest and that was followed by a great thanksgiving celebration.
Going back to my original thesis, teachers are paid what they are worth. If you doubt this, think what would happen if every teacher quit at once. It would not take long before all the positions would be taken by other people at the exact same wages and benefits. Teachers get other benefits that make their occupation attractive. First, their schooling is not difficult to attain or accomplish, there is little risk, they work a great schedule and it works well for parents who want to work the same schedule as their children's schooling. They also get great benefits.
If I were an exceptional teacher, I would be discouraged by this. I might know I am worth so much more because of my great ability and dedication. I would probably be upset at the poor quality of teaching my own children received from other less competent teachers. (This was true in our FB discussion.) There is always homeschooling, but we won't consider that in this discussion. ;-) The only way to get paid what you are worth as a teacher is to return education to the free market principles. The unions must be disbanded and the government schools privatized. Then the schools could bid for the best teachers. The best teachers would earn the highest wages. The schools with the best teachers would be able to attract the best and brightest students and largest student bodies. Teachers would work at enhancing their skills and demonstrating their teaching abilities, commitment and creativity so they could move into these better paying positions. However, this is not the way it is in the teaching profession. Those that join the teacher's ranks know the reality and still choose this profession. They have therefore lost the right to complain about their situation.
The number of people able and willing to do a job is the limiting agent on wages. We are seeing the effect of this in our country. Many industrial jobs are being shipped overseas as the economy goes global. There is a large supply of people able and willing to work for much smaller wages than most Americans are able to afford to so we have lost those jobs overseas. Most occupations today, other than working for the federal government (which is growing at a prodigious rate), are in the service industry. If someone wants to increase their opportunities to earn a larger wage then the best route is still the entrepreneurial one. Think of something that needs doing, put your skills and capital at risk and go for it. WARNING: Today, you must be a bit more cautious. Our federal government is making onerous regulations and legislation which are impairing the opportunities that once were available. We have a household that exists on two sole proprietory businesses. I know of which I speak.
America is still the land of opportunity! The people desiring to come here still greatly outnumbers those wanting to leave.
What are your thoughts?

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