In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the character Spock, played by the late Leonard Nimoy, dies after sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise from certain destruction by going into the reactor room and taking a fatal dose of radiation while fixing the reactor. When Captain Kirk asked him why he did it, his simple and logical explanation is something that we can all earn from – “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”
All of us get so wrapped up in trying to meet (or exceed) our own needs that we do not focus upon the needs of those around us. We call it being self-centered or sometimes being selfish. It is understandable that one must provide for the needs of his family .as well as him/herself; however most of us go well beyond just meeting those needs and the question becomes one of what do we do with our excess of wealth or time or ability.
The answer may be found in a simple, straightforward verse in the Bible – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
And again –
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – (Philippians 2:4)
We may never live in a utopian world of shared work and rewards where everyone has all that they need; but, we also do not need to live in a world where differences between the haves and the have-nots is as great as it is today. That difference is found in the pay at the top and bottom of companies. A recent report by the AFL-CIO on corporate pay found that the average pay ratio of CEO to median worker was 204-to-1. At the top of the list, four CEOs earn more than 1,000 times the salary of their median worker. There is something fundamentally wrong in that.
As in many categories of excess, the United State leads in this pay disparity. That same report on Executive Pay showed that in other countries this is not the case, often due to laws limiting the gap. “In Switzerland, where voters recently imposed new limits on executive pay, the CEO-to-worker pay gap is 148 times,” the AFL-CIO reported. “In the United Kingdom, the CEO-to-worker pay gap is one-quarter as large as ours. And in Japan, the gap is even smaller.”
I suspect that the really good CEOs in the United States would continue to make good business decisions and find enough reward in doing that to continue to lead successful companies, even at greatly reduced pay. There are certainly enough examples of great leaders at Swiss and Japanese companies to support that hypothesis.
Now before the conservatives start yelling Socialism, Socialism; I do believe that they should be paid more for taking on the greater decision making responsibilities, just not several hundred or a thousand times more. The fact that we have arrived at this situation is a reflection of the worship of greed in our society and our focus on score keeping using wealth as a measure. People seldom read about the strategic or even tactical decision that these CEOs are faced with. Instead, we focus on how much they made as a result.
Perhaps, if more of these highly paid people took to heart Spock’s advice that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, we would not have such a pay gap between the many and the one. Alas, I don’t believe that I have ever seen a CEO turn down the large pay rewards held out to them by their boards. Wouldn’t that be something?