Money and motivation

I’m astonished at the glibness of those arguing for cutting the top rate of tax from 50% to 40%.

There is a lazy tendency to imply that those earning lots of money are a set of fabulously robust, risk-taking entrepreneurs whose virility and vigour are key to the success of the rest of us lesser mortals. Yet at the same time we’re asked to believe that these people are more like the most tiresome adolescent, who struggles to get out of bed in the morning. The thought that they have to pay a bit more tax than the rest of us (or have to go to the trouble of finding an accountant to help them avoid it) is so terribly demoralising that they are really only working at a fraction of their capacity.

I know quite a few people who work for a pretty meagre salary who daily confront tremendously stressful experiences who are actually motivated by trying to do some good in the world. I can think of other social entrepreneurs who are are doing all sorts of great things for whom money is clearly of secondary interest.

And if I have to listen to one more whining plutocrat telling me about the stress of his/her job, I’ll invite them to take over from my friend at the sharp end of social work whose colleagues have to defend themselves against stabbing as a routine hazard. I abhor violence but were I in revolutionary France, I’d be taking a serious interest in knitting lessons.

At a much more mundane level, the point in a client relationship where I start thinking much about what I’m being paid is usually the point where I’ve lost my inspiration and motivation.

I could link to the scholarly research on money and incentives but I don’t think the kind of politicians I’m arguing against will be, er, motivated to read it.

5 thoughts on “Money and motivation

  1. Alexander Kjerulf

    I’ve been having very similar reactions myself, only I have been dwelling on lamp posts, but maybe knitting is a more considered position.


    The same debate is currently going on in Denmark and it’s just as misguided.

    I previously wrote a blog post on why having the world’s highest taxes (which we do – suck it, Sweden) is a good thing:

  2. James Cherkoff

    The bit I don’t get is that 50p is ‘useless’ because ‘no one’ pays it. However, at the same time, it’s damaging because people move countries to avoid it.

    So is it ‘useless’ or ‘damaging’?

  3. wendy jones

    Great. You’re right about the teenager/hero role, not one worth aspiring to.

    Keep on writing, it’s inspiring.

  4. wendy jonesa

    Great. Inspiring. And I like how you burst the bubble of the Masters of the Universe. Keep writing.

  5. Rob Paterson

    I was one of those wiz kids. I have to tell you that what we did was really not that hard. As Johnnie says there are many jobs that pay way less that are more complex and stressful.

    It’s a fantasy


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