The wealthy work harder?

One of the underlying assumptions of much conservative rhetoric concerning taxation is that the wealthy work harder than many less well-off wage earners. A standard exposition of the argument can be found here.

Among people my age, moreover, the ones who are now earning six figures are almost invariably the people who spent 5 hours a night on homework during high school, pursued challenging course work and numerous extra curricular activities in college, and now work insanely long hours at law firms, consulting firms, or investment banks. If you asked me whether the compensation given various professions always tracks their actual value, I’d say no, but it sure is difficult to strike it rich in this country if you aren’t willing to work hard, even if working hard is far from a guarantee that you’ll strike it rich. Source:

On its face, the argument would appear to have some merit. Images of hard working professionals like lawyers and doctors come to mind, for example. Surely these folks works much longer and harder than, say, a laborer.

The answer to the question isn’t nearly as obvious as it may seem to, say, the doctors and lawyers. It is possible that professionals work longer than tradesmen, but it is also demonstrable that professionals have a greater bias toward exaggerating their hours worked (probably because it sucks to sit in front of a computer screen all day writing a brief concerning xyz).

Plaintiff’s Exhibit A: For more on this go here.

My point is simple. Republicans ought to abandon this line of argumentation. Why? First, it is demonstrably not true. Second, it’s alienating. Third, it suggests a vapid morality-free libertarianism that abstracts the value of work from the thing produced and focuses it on its connection with wealth creation. This is, I submit, not a very conservative position. More on this later.

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