Should celebrities get paid astronomical amounts for their talent?

[1] Gerard Depardieu, a recent example of how great amounts of money might not be the best idea…

Welcome back – if you are still to have exams, I wish you luck, otherwise be happy it is finally over. Let the euphoria begin…soon enough! In this edition, I will cover many aspects to analyse whether celebrities should get paid astronomical amounts for their talent. To do so, the importance of celebrities as a mode of meritocracy, the aspects of democracy countered by the social democratic rule in France where celebrities are protesting against Hollande’s tax policies, and perhaps a question of moral when abusing the celebrity status.

It must be understood that traditionally speaking, classic democracy has always looked at the individual as being the centre for attention and consideration. The meritocratic approach is there to reward the best out of merit and talent, the term mainly introduced by Michael Young, a British sociologist. In summary, Young had two basic arguments: 1) the incentives approach – he believed that actions maybe rewarded for good they do, which theoretically, should result in good consequences to produce better society; 2) the actions propriety – Young believed that actions are judged by their propriety rather than their results in terms of quality. [2] Furthermore, many definitions of meritocracy is heavily linked with what a person “deserves”, as Sen points out. [2] A question that does grow of this, is whether all celebrities deserve their salaries – if so, why and why not? 

In many cases, celebrities are rewarded for their achievements within a society. Certainly, people have their own types of talent, and should be applauded within a society. Take Pablo Picasso or Niall Ferguson as an artist or scholar. They both got considerable amount of money for their drawing and sculpting, or analysis and research skills. Indeed, that is a stroke of genius that must be commended for, as some people do stick out of society more than others. However, take any star footballer playing in the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga, they are receiving great sums of money for essentially scoring goals for club and country, where many spectators across the world are appreciating the sport and are sponsored by big-named companies say Nike or Gilette.But it begs the question of who exactly comes up with these sums of money, and more importantly, why are some amounts more than others? Is it really only down to talent and/or sponsors? Why should a normal person gain considerably less for their own “talents” within a society, bearing in mind it is still a talent, after all?

It must be said, obviously, there are no easy answers, and is a very controversial topic. Shedding light from Marxist theories, it does criticise heavily on the ideals of capitalism and its wealth distribution across society and its social inequality. According to ‘utopian socialists’ across Europe, there was an incentive to bring both men and women to ‘perfect harmony’, regardless of their social and household roles during the early modern period [3]. There were various theories according to a wide spectrum of Marxist, anti-capitalist and anarchist philosophers across Germany and France, all having different ideal societies.

For example, during the 19th century, French political scientist Louis Blanc believed that there should be a “reorganisation of society itself”. [3] This was significant, as this would mean each citizen would be credited according to his ability as well as to their needs, ultimately increasing sense of equality and to make the weaker and poorer receive more. Moreover, there is the French anarchist Proudhon, who believed that society should be organised and according to the principles of anarchy, where Proudhon drew inspiration from the French Revolution of 1789, that “all property is theft”. [3] This was significant, as no one could have more power over anyone else, and that no one could be sovereign at the expense of others. Moreover, this was key, as every citizen can indeed be a politician, where the society should be making decisions through collective discussion, rather than to satisfy self-ambition or interests. [3]

Keeping this ideal society that the political scientists or philosophers in tact, we can now move onto the taxation policy introduced by the French president, Francois Hollande. Under Hollande, the main idea was to tax individuals who earn more than one million euros at 75 per cent. [4] This was significant, as this was to enforce redistribution of wealth, ultimately to persuade companies to lower executive pay and to restabilise France’s economy from further suffering and unemployment. 

However, France’s economy is still stagnate and unemployment rates is still rather high at 11 per cent. [4] It must be noted what works in theory, does not work in practise – many executives are not lowering pay in many sectors. For example, if we return to the footballers in France to teams like Paris Saint-Germain, it is understood that players are paid even higher wages so that it they get satisfied after tax payments. Equally, this has forced major French celebrities like Gerard Depardieu, decided to leave to settle in the cash-rich Russian area of Mordovia, in quest to have a ‘fairer’ level of income tax under Putin and by a foreign country [5]. Moreover, according to American political scientist Milton Friedman in his speech “Equality and Freedom”, there is an imbalance when society tries to achieve equality of opportunity and outcome at the time, as only one can be achieved as a consequence of the other [6]. So which type of equality should we take? Is democracy the better cause and equality of outcome more feasible? 

One way of looking at whether celebrities should be rewarded with monumental sums of money can be, in my opinion, perceived with morals. It can be argued that celebrities do take their time to invest in charities, therefore, with so much money in tact, it can be used effectively. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a celebrity is essentially “a famous person, especially in entertainment and sport.” [7] They receive different social status and are like every other human-being inclined in self-interest, which can easily result in turmoil and corruption. But why should a celebrity have a better social status than a normal working class person? How do the organisations pay? If it is from the government where the money originates, then why should they not regulate a more clear-cut allocation of the money. This would be key, as a lot more money could be effectively used in other social, economic or political sectors – helping the general public than attaining to essentially self-fulfillment and interests.

In conclusion and in my personal perspective, I believe celebrities should not be paid astronomical amounts, but equally, should not bring this case to an extreme. Essentially, I am arguing a balancing act of democracy and socialism. This is significant, as the individual should be credited for their talent, but perhaps regulate the amount of money for each class. However, this is far too idealist and confined, as if we find equality in as argued above, this is rather controversial and complicated of a situation. Is there really a way to classify a ‘better’ social class? If you achieve equality in society envisioned by Marxist political scientists in critique of industrialisation and society, this does not achieve the flip side of the coin, which is the continuity of capital flow and industrialisation. Do we end up with a world of equality or lack of economic success in markets encouraged by neo-liberalism? Will this not end as a crisis for some?

Ideally, the middle path of finding a way to satisfy the celebrities and working class is a difficult and perpetual process that neither democracy nor socialism has yet to figured out. Despite the fusion of both ideologies in social democracy that Hollande tried to introduce in his tax policies, this article’s topic and question begs to answered, and ultimately and unfortunately, until we find a legitimate ideology to satisfy democracy and socialism or anarchism effectively in both senses, this topic remains unanswered – no matter which way we take in an argument. Thanks for reading once again, and hopefully a second article to be published soon! Till next time, have a great week and all the best! 🙂