In German one word covers both – verdienen. The language takes the view that people don’t deserve more than they earn.
But most people do deserve more than they earn, even – most probably – the New York hedge-fund manager and billionaire John Paulson. On the evidence, he deserves heaven on earth. Last week he donated $100 million to the maintenance, jointly with New York City, of Central Park.
What precisely are the qualities that make Mr. Paulson such a successful hedge-fund manager? Charisma? Charm? A high I.Q., persistence, imagination, courage, originality, human relationships, mathematical wizardry? Harvard? Yale? Cunning, ruthlessness? A rich wife? Is being lucky one of them? Perhaps he has an unlucky twin brother with exactly the same gifts who is only a millionaire?
In any case, why should the rewards in the financial sector be so much higher than those in social work? Social workers are usually more virtuous. But virtue, we are told, is self-rewarding.
Obviously, over time, financial leaders, whatever their qualities, have had the power to arrange society in such a way that they come out on top and social workers, and those they look after, at the bottom.
In his next gift, John Paulson will no doubt help to reverse the trend.