The Scandinavian nations make for great fake testing grounds for socialist ideals because they are relatively unpopulated and rich with natural resource cash. It’s like a relatively wealthy family making rules for each of its members. You can afford to give Uncle Jake who doesn’t work and likes to drink his own house and allowance, because why not. No skin off your back. And you feel like you’ve done something nice. In the real world where you’re trying to make rent for you and yours, you can’t suffer Uncle Jake drinking whiskey and farting on your couch demanding you get HBO.
Iceland has the distinct advantage among even the Scandinavian nations of being a tiny island impossible to swim to. They are really well off and really protected. They’ve turned their 300,000 strong nation of late into a sanctuary for progressive politics. Their new prime minister is a Green Party environmental activist and they’ve passed People for a Perfect World legislation that would even give hippy California lawmakers pause.
In their latest move, Iceland passed a new law mandating that companies pay female employees the same as male employees for the same job title. Equal pay acts have been in place in Western nations, including the U.S., for decades now. Though they remain nearly impossible to enforce, since the definition of “equal work” is so subjective, allowing companies to avoid censure for gender pay disparities, such that they are alleged to exist. The new law in Iceland essentially puts the presumption of guilt of wage disparity on the companies, and forces them to submit their pay scales by job and gender to the government for certification. They have to prove their compliance.
As with all progressive ideals, a noble ideal such as eliminating base discrimination is being bastardized, warped, and politicized to enforce an equal injustice, in the name of equality. A free labor market remains the best way to ensure people get paid what they believe they are worth. They can move between companies and jobs to find what suits them for what pay they seek. Companies will pay them their worth or risk losing them, with employee turnover being particularly costly to firms. Attempts to artificially fix wages by fiat provides a monkey wrench into this system. You are now either paying people too much or too little. A classic example is the public schools systems, where unions dictate identical pay for all teachers based solely on years of service, meaning great teachers get paid exactly the same as lousy teachers, providing incentive for the former to leave and the latter to never depart.
It’s certainly possible some employers are paying women less than men for similar jobs because they can. Similar to how they pay men who are less aggressive about pay less than men who are more aggressive, or quite possibly, more valuable employees. The notion that women are paid less simply because of a conspiratorial male cabal have been disproven over and over again. The reason crafty mechanics sink women for more cash for air filters is because they see an easy mark, not because they hate women. These people have sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives. Also, bills to pay.
If a woman is being paid less than a man for a similar job, either she has asked or accepted less, or more likely, the employer sees her as less valuable to their bottom-line performance than the male employee. They may be wrong in their assumption, or they may be right. As many studies have shown, the cost of female employees, their length of tenure, and their willingness to surrender their freedom and occasionally, human dignity, for their work is less than men, on the whole. In the Silicon Valley, men as a group seem more willing to spend sixteen hours a day locked in a dark basement drinking Red Bull and coding, while women might choose a more healthy balance between work and mental health and social lives.
Iceland’s law can only have two meanings. Either, the government is insisting that any wage disparity between men and women is the result of insidious and illogical discrimination or its the result of a naturally arrived at economic variation, which they are going to forcibly eliminate by threat of fine and jail. If you happen not to believe in the evilness of Icelanders, the second likely holds. There’s a cost to compelling companies to pay people more than their worth to the company. That cost translates into higher prices which translates into Icelandic citizens paying more for the same goods in the name of feeling like you’re doing something about gender equality. You might simply ask every person on the island, please pay $2,000 into a fund to make sure women get paid more. Those North Atlantic do-gooders would likely do so. They’re rich and progressive. Like a whole country consisting of merely the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and they’ve elected Lena Dunham as their Prime Minister.
Activists in nations that couldn’t possibly afford the luxury tax of feeling like you’re righting a wrong that likely doesn’t exist applauded the hell out of Iceland. Let them be the first to donate their $2,000 to the cause.
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