A living wage

Dollars and sense

One of the characters in Marshall Jevons's mystery novel Murder at the Margin is a Harvard Divinity School professor named Matthew Dyke, who at one point complains about the exploitation of low-wage workers. Dyke declares that the employers' "profit-maximizing behavior" at the expense of the workers is unethical—as is all profit-maximizing behavior. A colleague from the economics department, Professor Henry Spearman, overhears this remark and asks why, if profit maximation is unethical, Dyke sublet his house at market rates rather than offer it to an impecunious graduate student at a much lower price. The economist adds that he has yet to hear of anyone on the divinity faculty asking for a salary decrease.

 

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