People today work as hard as their parents did, but they have much less wealth. The reason for their relative poverty is that three mighty lions take a share of every worker’s production before it gets to their bank account. These three lions have always existed, but today they are much more ravenous than ever before.
The first lion is profits.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how productive the average worker is, because their employer takes all their production off them and gives only a fraction back, in the form of wages. This is inescapable given that the employer owns the workplace and everything that gets produced in it, and given that the Police will always take their side (at least initially) in any property or rights dispute.
In America, the labour share (or wage share) has been declining for several decades. Compared to the early 1970s, the labour share has declined some 10%. An OECD report suggests that a similar decline, of about 10%, has been seen in the labour share across a basket of Western countries. Employers take more, and give back less, than ever before.
To put this into perspective, the average American worker produces some USD72 of goods and services per hour of labour. A fall in labour share, from 65% to 55%, represents a $7.20 difference by the time it gets to the worker – and that’s before the other two lions take their share!
The second lion is taxes.
The average tax burden in Anglo countries is about 30%. This is lower than the average of other Western nations, and reflects that Anglo countries are run in accordance with a small-government ideology. However, it’s still a significant amount of the average worker’s productivity. After losing 45% of their productivity to profits, to lose a further 30% to taxes is brutal.
It means that our average worker, having produced $72 of goods and services before the lions took their share, is now down to about $27 after profits and taxes have been accounted for. The tax burdens of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, by contrast, are all less than 15%, despite that their wages and standards of living are similar to those of Anglo countries.
And there’s still the third lion to contend with – perhaps the hungriest of all. This third lion is rents.
The median monthly gross residential rent in the United States is now around $1,100 per month. Median rents in New Zealand are around the same level. Assuming that our average worker works 150 hours a month, dividing their rent by the number of hours worked gives us around $7 an hour. In other words, seven dollars of the income earned for every hour of labour the average worker performs goes to pay the rent.
Subtracting this from the $27 after profits and taxes means that the average American worker ends up with $20 out of every $72 they produce, once profits, taxes and rents have been taken out. If the labour share was still 65%, if the tax rate was 15% like in Far East Asia and if the average rents were at pre-Clown World levels (let’s say $600 per month), the average worker would be left with around $36 for every hour worked – almost twice as much as in reality.
Moreover, out of the $20 per hour the average worker gets in reality, they have to pay for a number of work-related expenses out of that. Transport to and from their job, work clothing, health insurance (if American) and the cost of any psychiatric medicine they might need would account for another $10 at least. They also need to save some of their wage for a house deposit if they aspire to ever be more than a rentcuck.
All of these facts tell us that, if the average Anglo worker in 2021 had the benefit of a pre-1970s labour share, Far East Asian tax levels and pre-Global Financial Crisis rent levels, they would have about three times as much disposable income as they actually do have in reality. Once the three lions have taken their share, there isn’t much left over for the average worker.
In summary, the three lions that take a share out of every worker’s wage, before the worker sees it, are profits, taxes and rents. If we could reduce these expenses to levels that exist elsewhere in space and time, we could triple the prosperity of the average worker.
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