So now we read (ABC News Story) that Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, to include a a million-dollar "consulting" deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes. Exxon pocketed $36 billion last year, but even so, four-hundred million is a honkin' big piece of the pie. Of course, Libertarian types (I'm thinking of Glen, here) ask us, "Why do we have such resentment over companies making profits and individuals making money?" The problem is that people don't "make" money. In a perfect world, money serves as a reward for the productive labor that has created wealth. So what's wrong with this picture?
First, the idea that one man waving the baton, conducting the orchestra, is somehow responsible for the lion's share of the sounds omitted from the instruments is ludicrous. As a person who has engaged in quite a bit of productive labor (in spite of my efforts to avoid it at all cost), I can tell you that the people who form the cogs in the machinery of any large enterprise do a helluva lot of back-breaking work that is just as essential (actually, much more essential) than anything the CEO does. Now I realize that there can be only a few people at the top and that someone must do the dirty work. We will always need managers. But doesn't this large payment completely undermine the legitimacy of the current model? In this case, one member of a collosal multinational company is being paid over 1% in profits! A great number of people (especially those hired in Africa) probably don't make in a year what this fatcat makes while chewing a single bite of a doughnut.
Even if we were to accept the fantastic premise that some chubby guy in an office had single-handedly produced the entire productive output of a small nation, we'd be left with an inconsistency; namely, that the current market forces that determine prices fail to account for a large group of stakeholders. In addition to the people who live in the countries where the oil's being depleted and those affected by the pollution, there are the unborn billions who soon will be born into a world lacking an adequate petroleum supply. Such a world may, out of necessity, place a higher premium on the actual contributions of people in the productive process. The Lee Raymond story will hopefully be relegated to those back pages of history. Future students can wonder (as we so often wonder about our ancestors now), what in the hell were they thinking?!