High salaries win out at the Oxford Union

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I was in Oxford last week for a Union debate. The motion was "This House believes City pay is indefensible in light of growing social inequality." Naturally I was in opposition, along with the Telegraph’s Damian Reece. I put the case that it mattered more to have a richer society than a more equal one. When a country becomes richer, it often happens that income disparities increase, because some can manage wealth creation faster than others. Modern China is an obvious example. Fortunately, unless the rich store their money in brass pots in the garden, it circulates. What they save or invest provides capital pools to create more economic expansion; what they spend creates jobs, be it in the auto or travel industries, in services such as restaurants, or in areas like interior design.

Furthermore, with capital and talent never more mobile, attempts to limit rewards in London would simply drive both to more amenable surroundings, with loss to the UK of the economic success they bring. I don’t know if our eloquence won through, or whether the Oxford students were looking to the rewards of their own future careers, but the motion was defeated, as the house voted not to criticize the high salaries.