Would Higher Salaries Lead to Better Politicians?

piggy politiciansThomas Sowell over at Townhall.com seems to think so:

The cost of paying every member of Congress a million dollars a year is absolutely trivial compared to the vast amounts of the taxpayers’ money wasted by cheap politicians doing things to get themselves re-elected. You could pay every member of Congress a million dollars a year for a century for less money than it costs to run the Department of Agriculture for one year.

There is no point complaining about the ineptness, deception or corruption of government while refusing to do anything to change the incentives and constraints which lead to ineptness, deception and corruption.

I do have to take issue with some of this logic though. Simply paying politicians more may is not a guarantee that the laws they write would be more competent or free of corruption and scandal. Nor does it properly address the issue of the number of laws and regulations that are churned out each year.

As long as we’re speculating on grand salary schemes, why not adjust salaries of congresscritters to that of their average constituent, rewarding them when their corner of the country does well (yet penalizing them for any pork expenditures so their goal as in congress isn’t simply to inflate wages through tax money redistribution).

What do you think a politician is worth?

9 Comments
  1. Steven, your comments don’t really address the main point of the article.

    The hope isn’t that if we pay the same people more, that they will suddenly become more competent; it is that if we offer more money for the job, more people with a higher degree of competency will apply for the job. Of course, there is also an implicit hope here that the voters will have sense enough to vote the more competent people into office.

    No, he isn’t directly addressing the issue of how many laws and regulations get churned out, he is addressing the underlying problem that causes their ridiculously high number and poor quality, the low quality of the people in office.

    I don’t think a politician is worth very much, but I’d be willing to pay a whole lot more assuming it meant we could trade up for some real statesmen.

  2. In particular, what do you think of his arguments in paragraphs 4 through 7?

    I think he perhaps overestimates how much of a sacrifice even a CEO would be making by accepting the lower pay, but there is still a point to be made that people tend to get use to the level of lifestyle they have been able to achieve, and generally don’t like to go back down the pay scale, especially if it is by an integer factor.

    And no, not all economics professors, surgeons or successful executives would do a better job than the group we have now (come to think of it, we probably have some of all three in congress now), but as libertarians, we generally hold the position that the free market usually works best, right? I think his main point is that we simply aren’t paying the going rate for the best and brightest our nation can offer.

  3. How much should you pay a person for doing the job they love? A person passionate about doing something they love does not worry much about the pay. Do you want candidates running because of the money or candidates wanting to do the job? What is needed is a way to better screen the candidates to find that one person who is passionate about being a politician and serving the American people well.

    Supposedly we are in the information age but very little good information gets to the public when it comes to candidates.

    Until there is a candidate that can afford to run, has good education,has a passion for politics and can get his/her views to the public the amount paid for the position means little.

  4. Well, if we did pay a million dollars a year, that might help attract better politicians… but it would also give the incumbent one hell of an advantage. In races that cost about half a million to win, he could bury his challengers. So I’d be okay with a pay hike, provided that all incumbents were barred from reelection.

  5. Paying them more money doesn’t mean they will work harder for us. It just means that we have paid them more money; for a job they are still performing in the same way.

  6. Here in the great Free State of New Hampshire, we pay our Senators and Representatives what they are worth: $100 a year.

    No, you read it right: $100. Not $1000, or $10,000, or $100,00.

    And that’s in our Constitution, so they can’t easily give them a pay raise either.

    Just another reason to move to the Free State.

  7. Salaries for Congress should be adjusted to ZERO. Congress should meet for about a month every two years, so not getting paid for it shouldn’t be a big deal, just cover expenses.

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