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Washington Monthly: The Chamber of Commerce and the Pay Gap

August 18, 2010- Looking back through recent history, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't exactly known for its efforts championing the concerns of women in the workforce. The Chamber, among other things, has opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Family & Medical Leave Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

But the Chamber of Commerce still manages to surprise.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, establishing American women's right to vote. To honor the occasion, Jen O'Malley Dillon, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, sent a message to the party's email list, heralding the date's significance, but noting there's still work to be done, especially in closing the gender pay gap.

The Chamber was unimpressed, and said so on its official blog, arguing that those "fighting for 'full equality' are trying to actually legislate away choice." The piece goes on to draw some bizarre conclusions from a recent David Leonhardt piece in the New York Times.

There is much that was good in this article -- for instance the acknowledgment that most of the current "pay gap" is the result of individual choice rather than discrimination; but I believe that the overall tone is one of those cultural changes we need to make -- the idea that giving up "pay and promotions" is a "terribly steep price" to pay for time away from work. These are only two of the many things that people value and depending on the weight that you assign to each of your values giving up a little might gain you a lot. Equality is a matter of ensuring equal access to opportunity, not ensuring identical outcomes in some areas depending on which opportunities you choose to take.

On a similar note around the same time the NY Times article appeared, Don Boudreaux wrote on income inequality in general noting: "Not only does achievement of such "equality" require the state to treat people unequally, obsession with income equality also reflects a Scrooge-like fetish for money."

I had to read this a couple of times to make sure it wasn't satire.



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