Friday, April 07, 2006

Defending the indefensible...

In this case city lawyers, bankers, private equity bods and so on. It's now almost a commonplace in any argument with a lefty (and often with non-lefties) that they will at some point say - usually in reply to a comment that Britain's tax take is now at its highest for 20 years - that public sector workers like doctors or nurses (though rarely lesbian outreach officers) are paid scandalously little in comparison with bankers, lawyers etc. even though their work is far more important.

Important it undoubtedly is, but such comments, such as this from Dr Crippen (of whom this is in no way intended as a personal critique) miss the central point.

Of course, consultants still earn far less than city solicitors, city accountants, stock-brokers, investment bankers and those nice people who sold you your endowment mortgages, but then doctors are not as important as these people.

This is apples and oranges stuff. Dr Crippen has already said that GPs now earn an average of £100-150,000 pa, with consultants presumably on more. Solicitors earn (in the city) about £50,000 on qualification (ie after training), accountants rather less. In order to earn the sort of money being talked of here, solicitors or accountants have to make it to partner. This means that they are then part-owner of a firm, and stand to make or lose money according to how well the firm does. Very few non-banking professionals can earn as much by salary as a GP or consultant (or senior civil servant for that matter); in order to raise their earnings that high, they have to gain a personal stake in the company.

Once they have done so - and the overwhelming majority never will - they are personally creating wealth. This obviously entails their earning more. All (or almost all) the money that is paid to doctors comes from the taxpayer; all (or almost all) the money that is paid to a partner in a law firm comes from the profits that firm has made in that year - money that the partner has himself made. An income of £150,000 isn't so dusty either - only 30,000 less than the Prime Minister.

On a final point of importance - without the solicitors, bankers, accountants and the rest, there would be very much less money available to pay the doctors.


Blogger Serf said...

Of course if the market decided how much doctors were worth, there would be no argument.

9:37 am  

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