Thought Experiment: Incentivizing Teachers And Health-And-Welfare Workers With Actual Money

Or, You Know, We Can Just Wait For The Next Lockdown To Clap For Them Again

A selection of images produced by Midjourney

A few days ago I came across The Anatomy of Your Salary from Philip Joubert, wherein he makes an economic argument for how salaries are determined that seems counterintuitive from a moral perspective, but is quite rational. In it he raises a compelling question about how we incentivize work that we claim to value as a society:

“The best teachers aren’t earning much more than the average. The reason is that schools can’t properly quantify the value that teachers create.”

However complicated it may be to solve problems of this sort, if we look at the salaries it becomes clear very quickly that our healthcare and social welfare workers earn absurdly small amounts that are entirely uncorrelated to how crucial their work is for a functioning society. Some people believe that healthcare and social workers don’t want more money, but I’ve seen enough search results for “teachers strike” and “social workers strike” to be convinced that that’s not entirely true.

Teacher Tracking

The first thought that occurred to me after reading Joubert’s article seems like something that’s not only feasible, but could be relatively straightforward to implement. What if, for each taxpayer, we kept records of every teacher that taught them throughout their publicly mandated education? And then paid those teachers dividends directly out of the taxpayers’ taxes?

In such a world, teachers would effectively be receiving commissions based on their collective performance.

I‘m imagining a world in which primary and secondary teachers received a small amount of tax back for each and every student they ever taught who earns enough to be paying income tax. In such a world, teachers would effectively be receiving commissions based on their collective performance, and while their base salaries might continue to be barely enough to get them started, each and every student that passes through their classrooms would become as much of a financial investment…

Adam Fisher / fisher king (@therightstuff)

Software developer and writer of words, currently producing a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare's Sonnets! See for details.