Not all data are created equal. No, indeed. Some are useless. Sometimes having numbers is worse than not having numbers; because when you have numbers, you are often (mis)lead into believe that they can tell you something useful about the world.

I’m guessing that the forthcoming data on CEO pay is going to be pretty much useless. Why? At least two reasons:

1) how the median employee wage is calculated will be subject to obfuscation and manipulation. (And/or similarly: how the CEO wage is calculated will be similarly subject to obfuscation.)

“One of my clients told me he could probably just outsource some departments to alter where the median falls,” said a pay consultant.


2) so what? So you know these numbers? What interesting thing can be done with them?

The answer to #2 is nothing. Nothing interesting can be done with the numbers. But a lot of bad stuff can happen, a lot of envy and jealousy can ferment and foment something nasty.

“Who cares what the CEO makes? The whole concept of such a comparison fits a society built on envy. I don’t begrudge the higher salary of a Nobel Laureate professor.”

-JD Cross