Egalitarianism and Executive Compensation: A Relational Argument, by Pierre-Yves Néron
Abstract: What, if anything, is wrong with high executive compensation? Is the common “lay reaction” of indignation and moral outrage justified? In this paper, my main goal is to articulate in a more systematic and philosophical manner the egalitarian responses to these questions. In order to do so, I suggest that we take some insights from recent debates on two versions of egalitarianism: a distributive one, according to which no one should be worse off than others because of unfair distributions of goods and resources, especially ones based on matters of luck or arbitrary factors, and a relational one, which maintains that egalitarian justice requires members of a society to relate to one another as equals. Drawing on recent attempts to highlight the tricky nature of managerial authority, I argue that high inequalities in pay are not simply a distributional matter but should also be analyzed through a relational lens. I also attempt to show that relational egalitarians are well-equipped to question the now dominant “incentives” view of CEO compensation.