Joseph E. Stiglitz: That’s an example of a kind of myth in the area of inequality. It says, those at the bottom are there because they deserve it. And those at the top are there because they deserve it. They’ve made larger contributions to the society.
One of the points I try to raise is, look at the people at the top. They’re not the people who have made our most important contributions. The people who discovered DNA, transistors, lasers… They are people who figured out how to game the system better.
Farley: It’s the same with books. Don DeLillo has made a lot less money as a writer than Jackie Collins.
Stiglitz: No matter what field you name, the people who have enriched our culture and our technology are not among the top. Ask the question, do you think Watson and Crick, who discovered DNA, would have worked harder if they had gotten more money? They weren’t doing it for money. They were working as hard as they could.
Do you think that a CEO of a company is a peculiar sort of person that will only give half his effort if you only pay him $5 million? But you have to give him $10 million if you want him to give a serious effort. If he’s that kind of person, you probably don’t want him to be your CEO. These salaries gave lie to the notion that this was all based on performance, because the pay continued even when the performance disappeared.