Defenders of the capitalist order will point out that anyone can be a farmworker or a dishwasher. These jobs are easily replaceable, which is why they are paid poorly. Not everyone can be CEO of Apple, thus the position pays more. It's just a consequence of supply and demand. But that is not the question. A better thing to ask ourselves is: Does anyone need to be CEO of Apple? That company is staffed by thousands of workers and software engineers and more. They're all perfectly intelligent people. Under a different arrangement, a form of worker-elected committee could run the company just fine. (Some oddball worker co-ops already operate this way.) Does anyone really think that Apple could not possibly function without Tim Cook, or some other individual of similar oligarchical baring, at its head?
Personally, I broadly agree with this article. I don't have any particular comments on it. However, I have comments on a few things you guys have said in the comments. I'll reply to multiple people in this single post.
First of all, I guess I should disclose that I'm European, so many of your American views are very foreign to me, and many (most?) other Europeans. A lot of the things you guys take for granted we view as patently false. You probably will feel similarly alienated by many of the things I will say. Therefore, I hope you can try to give my points the benefit of the doubt, rather than dismiss them out of hand simply because they don't agree with your established worldview.
Now, to the specific points:
On this point, I almost could not disagree more. People are not paid solely according to how useful they are. If they were, scientific researchers would be paid more than stock brokers, not to mention nurses or teachers.
A major determinant of someone's salary is POWER. CEOs have a lot of power, and they know powerful people. They run in circles with people who can give them high paying jobs, and they can heavily influence how much their salary will be, simply by being in the right position.
I'm not saying that someone's performance isn't linked to their salary, of course it is. But nobody performs 300 times better than an average person.
Maybe so. But I would argue the opposite in many, many cases. The fact is that a single person cannot possibly understand everything that's going on in a large organisation. Therefore, they can easily end up making poor decisions simply because they have imperfect information. Beyond purely business decisions, they can easily overlook their employees wellbeing because nobody from the lower rung has any possibility to give any feedback to anybody in power. This is not only bad for the employees, it's bad for business. Having unhappy employees will obviously lead them to being less productive.
I'm an engineer. Over my career I have seen ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE decisions be made by top executives. In some cases, the reason is that they just don't understand what we're doing at a deep enough level (nor could any human being presiding over a large enough organisation), and they don't understand what we need to more effectively do our work. To better deal with such problems, I truly believe it would be better to have more executive power be distributed across the organisation, rather than have a pyramidal hierarchical structure as most companies have now.
Do you think Apple's employees are being given money as a charitable act by Tim Cook? Apple is making FAR more out of their employees' work than they are paying back to their employees. If they weren't they wouldn't be one of the richest companies in the world.
This is the case with pretty much all salaried work in the private sector. People are hired because the company believes that it can earn more money for itself by hiring that person. Not as a favour (except, I would point out, in high paying cushy jobs, where powerful people sometimes hire their powerful friends because they believe they can get something out of it later, maybe a favour back).
This is clearly false. Compare these graphs.
CEO pay correlates negatively with employees' share of the companies' profits. I think this is a bit too obvious to be a coincidence.
To quote an Englishman, whom I think reflects the views of many a European;
'[Some say] the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top. Well I say, "Shit floats" '
- Jarvis Cocker