A common criticism leveled against the financial services industry concerns their remuneration compared to those from more ‘noble’ professions – such as Medical Doctors. Proclamations such as “it’s ridiculous that the average Doctor earns less than the average investment banker” are not unusual to hear in common parlance; Doctors cure ailments and save lives whereas Investment Bankers supposedly wreck households and exploit taxpayers. It is, therefore, unfair that Bankers are paid more than Doctors. The oft-proposed solution is heavier taxation and regulation on Investment Banks.
However, these critics conveniently forget the other side of the coin – the inadequate remuneration for noble professions. Increased taxation and regulation on Investment Banks does nothing to address the inadequate gratitude expressed to them (which these same critics seem to implicitly believe is measured purely by financial compensation).
For Doctors to be remunerated fairly, we need only look at the USA to find that, on that side of the Atlantic, it’s Medics (Anaesthetists, Gynaecologists, General Practitioners etc.) who dominate lists of the most highly paid professions. Their average pay in the USA is higher and their hours worked less than average Investment Bankers. Freer markets ensure fairer, more just remuneration.
Nursing and teaching are also considered noble professions (though they are often undervalued, and wrongly so, relative to Doctors). Fair remuneration and freedom with which they can care and teach in an appropriate, effective and efficient way is only viable in a mostly (if not, completely) free market.
In Higher Education, the phenomenally high research activity of US Universities is unrivalled. This can be attributed to the flourishing mix of private alternatives, the relatively generous remuneration of Professors and the abundance of private funding opportunities available for academic pursuits.
One might argue that healthcare and education must be universally accessible and it would greatly harm society if we repealed the public healthcare available via the NHS. However, a pragmatic compromise would be issuing healthcare vouchers so that individuals are given the money that they can spend freely on their own healthcare. In this way, the public can choose between public and private alternatives with their vouchers.
Free markets lead to an improvement in welfare for all those involved by providing the consumers with more choice (whether they be patients or students) and higher quality products through competitive mechanisms whilst ensuring the fair remuneration of producers – whether they are medical professionals or involved in education.