This past weekend, an interesting analysis appeared in a number of newspapers, showing that the highest-paid people in medicine weren’t the doctors, but the “senior management” types in healthcare. Hospital directors make a lot more than the most expensive surgeons, and multiple times what general practitioners do. This is a problem, but it’s not confined to medicine. It’s everywhere. The senior executives in pharmaceutical companies make ten times what their top researchers make – if not hundreds of times. In my wife’s university, from what I can determine, nine of the ten top-paid individuals are “management” types, and most of the top fifty are either management types or professors of business or management. The same has long been true in corporate America as well.
The question is, then, just why are these management types so much more valuable than those under them who actually do the work, design and make the products, do the market research, sell those new products, teach the students, build the highways, heal and repair the sick. Not only that but even among the top executive types, pay levels are marginally related, if even that, to actual performance or worth to society. The highest-paid individuals in America are hedge fund managers and other financial types whose greatest accomplishments are speculation and speed-trading, which is essentially legal high-speed graft and extortion, justified by them as “providing market liquidity.” Study after study has shown that the highest-paid executives tend, overwhelmingly, to be taller, good-looking males – whose actual performance on the job is, on average, less than that of either shorter male CEOs or women.
These facts are anything but unknown. So why do we continue to select and reward individuals and occupations that aren’t the best for improving life for the vast majority of us? For that matter, why don’t corporations pick executives and managers based on more than a modicum of talent and a maximum of appearance and charisma? And what’s the societal point of minimizing productive people and resources in the United States so that a comparative handful of executives and speculators can pile up more hundreds of millions or billions of dollars?
Are we really that self-destructive?