At 80, my father, Malay Chaudhuri, finally finished writing his dream book in which he presents a forceful argument for an exploitation free world with a maximum wage ratio of the highest paid to lowest paid worker at 3:1. The book by itself is no less than a revolution by itself. I genuinely believe that it has the potentiality of unleashing many an Arab Spring across the world.
I am a proud son who just came back from London, where Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee launched his revolutionary book, What Marx Left Unsaid, A Theory of Economic Justice at the Power Brands Global – London International Forum for Equality.
It’s a pleasure, as a proud son and lifetime student of Malay Chaudhuri, to share my thoughts in this editorial on this amazing revolutionary theory of economic justice.
I have grown up at home hearing from my father about his theory of production of skills by skills… literally from my early childhood; just like my son, who now has been hearing it from my father since he was in class 6th or so. Yes, my father believes this theory can be taught to anyone; and he has taught my son and me the same since we were 11, or so, respectively.
What the theory basically says is simple. Human beings must earn as per their skills, which determine their ability to contribute in a society. And skills must be measured fairly. All that we need to produce skills are two things. First, the readiness to sacrifice unskilled labour. That’s what any man is capable of giving with basic education – unskilled labour. The second is certain skilled hours of a trainer. So, if one is a 12thpass student and wants to become a graduate, the society loses on an entire lifetime of class 12th pass labour and has to invest three years of a skilled teacher’s labour, to make the 12th pass person a graduate. And in return, the society gets from this educated graduate, 45 years of a graduate’s labour (assuming the person is 20 years old and would go ahead and work till the age of 65) instead of, say, 48 years of a 12thclass pass individual’s labour. The underlying assumption of this theory is that every skill is more or less reproducible. And anything that is reproducible should have a price commensurate to its cost of production; or rather, more specifically, its opportunity cost to the society.
For example, if a person, who starts working at the age of 15, is categorized as an unskilled labourer, he is typically supposed to have only passed (or failed) class 10th by then. Now, if we were to make him an engineer, what exactly does society lose and gain?
Society loses 50 years of 10th pass unskilled labour; that is, it loses around 100,000 hours in 50 years, and instead gets 44 years, or 88,000 hours of an engineer’s labour. The society has to invest six extra years of skilled labour to make this individual an engineer. If one were to assume that the person has to study 500 hours per year, then in 6 years, the individual has to study 3000 hours. If the teacher (assuming he is also an engineer) teaches, say, 25 students in a class, then the society – to create a single engineer – has invested 3000 ÷ 25= 120 skilled hours.
So what it essentially means is that 100,000 unskilled hours of class 10thlabour plus 120 skilled hours of investment to make an engineer equals 88,000 skilled hours of an engineer’s labour. Or in other words, 100,000 unskilled hours = 87880 skilled engineer’s hours. Or value of 1 skilled engineer’s hour is equal to 100,000 ÷ 87880, or approximately 1.15 unskilled hours of a 10th pass student!
Now, if we were to tell this to an engineer, he would literally, if I may, freak out! But the fact of the matter is that as a society, that’s approximately the engineer’s worth. So, as per my above calculation, the maximum wage difference between an engineer and a tenth class pass person can only be 1.25:1.
In the book, What Marx Left Unsaid, Malay Chaudhuri has basically written a more detailed explanation of the same. For example, to teach the student for 120 hours, the teacher himself has to do research of added 120 hours. Similarly, there are librarians, research associates etc who also invest their hours; and the actual hours invested, instead of being 120, might be 360. Perchance, some teachers may have PhD qualifications; so their hours are more valuable… and so on.
Actually, the final figure is far less ruthless than my calculation. It says that the maximum difference between wages can be 3:1. And if the cost of producing a scientist is only 3 times the cost of producing an ordinary laborer, then the scientist’s salary should also be a maximum of 3 times more than that of the laborer.
While Karl Marx said every human being should be paid according to his contribution in the society, the lack of a measuring tool of contribution is what left his theory vague. How do you measure the contribution of a scientist who invents a life-saving drug versus the man who comes and cleans your toilet? Leave it in the hands of free market and the ratio could be anything between 10:1 to 1000:1 or more.
But the reality of the matter is that the only reason the sweeper is cleaning toilets is because he wasn’t perhaps given even as low as 5 to 7 years of extra education after, say, class 8.
Post that, it’s just a matter of chance which scientist invents what in the next how many years. This, of course, requires sacrifice of individual arrogance –”I am so capable because I am by myself special” – and replacement of the same with “I am so good because I got the opportunity to be trained by teachers and develop my qualities”.
To me, if the society believes this, then the theory outlined in this book is unbeatable and defines the foundation of a just society. In fact, every theory has a theoretical aspect and a psychological aspect. And I feel that even psychologically, a 3:1 ratio between the highest paid person and lowest paid person is a very just feeling as well. In fact, it is something that is in any case bound to happen in a free market capitalist system eventually.
Surprised? As we drift towards an economy where education actually becomes free thanks to the Internet, soon, we will have a situation where everyone could be educated and no one would want to do the jobs attributed to low qualifications – say, that of a sweeper. And then, we are bound to see a sweeper or driver getting paid more than an engineer. Because the market demand and supply decides prices in the free market. With an over-supply of engineers and scarcity of sweepers, the sweepers would be costlier despite being less educated. Of course, this would eventually lead to disincentive in being educated. And finally, we may have perfect competition where engineers and sweepers will perhaps be paid the same; even if the engineers end up getting paid more, the figure would be a psychologically acceptable 3 times more, unlike what it is now.
RECENTLY NOBEL LAUREATE LEYMAH GBOWEE LAUNCHED HIS REVOLUTIONARY BOOK IN LONDON, WHAT MARX LEFT UNSAID, A THEORY OF ECONOMIC JUSTICE
In the world as we know it, the wage difference has been skewed and differentiated till now, because education has or had been restricted to a lucky few. So, those with education could charge a super premium – or what we call monopolistic supernormal profit. As Internet brings about perfect competition in every sector, things are changing rapidly. Poverty is no more a reason for remaining uneducated. Remaining uneducated will soon be a conscious choice we will make. After all, getting educated requires that much extra effort than remaining uneducated. Consequently, a significant proportion of people actually might not mind earning a third of what a highly educated person earns and might choose to not put in the extra effort in gaining higher education. However, if the educated man were to earn 5 to 10 times or 20 times more than an uneducated individual, and if education is freely available, in all probabilities, people will get educated, and bring down the prices of the educated lot. One might of course argue, what about entrepreneurs? This brilliant book answers that too. One might argue, what about people with the same qualifications but who have better skills due to their having worked harder? Well, for such cases, there will be wage cuts depending upon one’s productivity; but not necessarily additional wages.
One might argue, what about specially and uniquely talented people? Well, I firmly believe that in a fair and just society, they will be very happy earning three times more, plus additional non-monetary rewards and recognition. That’s what psychology says. No one has ever achieved greatness chasing money. People achieve greatness chasing their passions. And what they expect in return is recognition, especially if they are financially as stable as their other friends whom they studied with.
I am sure that whether you like or dislike the book, it will be hard for you to find a logical or humanitarian flaw within this treatise. Ever since I stepped into Malay Chaudhuri’s class way back in 1989, I have nurtured the dream of such a society. This book – the most cherished gift on my 45thbirthday from the man who has inspired me the most in my life – reminds and inspires me yet again to dedicate the rest of my life to try and bring about a revolution around the world in order to make the dream come true of a fair world where the wage difference between the highest paid worker and the lowest paid worker is simply 3:1.
I hope you all soon buy the book, read it, get as inspired and share the dream. May this dream one day turn into a global revolution and change this world.
(SMS your views with your name and topic to
Connect with the author
or tweet him at https://twitter.com/Arindam_IIPM
or follow his articles at http://arindamchaudhuri.blogspot.com