Barclays' Diamond geezer
Is Bob Diamond worth the £22m, or £420,000 per week, he earned last year? Are the star players of his beloved Chelsea football club worth around a third of that?
On one level it's a fatuous question. I have a simple, atavistic view: you're worth what you're paid. If you think you're worth more, go out into the market place and test it.
Diamond has turned Barclays' investment banking arm from an also-ran into a contender. No one in his game doubts that his contribution to Barclays’ highly profitable global debt business has been significant. And he's probably being paid more-or-less the market-price for his kind of talent.
But it's arguable that the market itself doesn't work terribly effectively, that it tends to over-value certain sorts of people - investment bankers, hedge-fund managers, chat-show hosts, former residents of the Big Brother house, Premier League footballers - while undervaluing the contribution made by millions of others.
However, some (but not all) investment bankers and footballers can point to the substantial incremental profits they've generated for their businesses, and they can claim with some credibility that their personal remuneration represents value-for-money in that context (actually, it's pretty difficult to make that claim of Chelsea superstars, in view of the huge financial losses incurred by the club).
We live in an era when financial capital is staggeringly cheap and the profit-generating skills of humans are relatively scarce and highly prized. It's why the gap between the wealthiest and the vast majority is widening in a way we haven't experienced for a hundred years.
There may be social and moral arguments against the widening in that gap.
But it’s hard to make an economic case against it, unless you believe that the prevailing global version of capitalism that rules almost everywhere (barring Cuba and Venezuela) is inefficient, unsustainable and will wither.