“I pay your wages!” Sure, about 4.7 seconds of wages, you ass


If you’re a public worker, you’ll almost certainly have heard someone say ‘I pay your wages’.
Many people are self aware enough to say that ironically. Many are not.

What, then, if public workers did indeed conduct a relationship with these people based on their own stated position, that ‘they pay their wages’?

Take your average English district council tax bill and your average district council worker. A bin man, say, or planning officer.

Average total council tax is about £120 a month, or £30 a week, per household. Assuming 2 people per household, that’s £15 a week each.

The local council tends to take about 15% of that, outside of unitary authorities. So the actual payment to the district council is about £2.25 a week.

Of course it’s a tax that the council workers also pay, but hey, seeing as we’re already being economically illiterate.

The rest is effectively government money from other types of taxation, which everyone (sic) pays, and for the purposes of this exercise is so infinitesimal per capita that l will remove it altogether and stick to Council Tax.

Let’s say there are 200 staff per district council on average (many have a lot more but I don’t want to oversell the point). We’ll ignore the fact that also included in that £2.25 are a range of material services like fleets of bin lorries, democratic and electoral functions, printing and post rooms, etc. Forget all that and assume the £2.25 goes entirely on staff wages (still not overselling the point, see?). At £2.25 a week that’d be about 1.1p a week on each of their wages.

Average wages across council staff are about £24k gross, or about £15k after the taxation that I’ve ignored here. So £1,250 or £312 a week. A 37 hour week means average wages are in real terms about £8.50 an hour.

On that basis, if someone says they “pay your wages”, then perhaps they are entitled to what they pay for: the full 1.1p worth, or roughly 4.7 seconds. About the same time it takes to tell someone that you pay their wages.

Social provision of public goods is not commerce, for goodness’ sake. It can only pretend to be, badly, and then only under certain artificial conditions.


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