Are American CEOs paid much more than their foreign counterparts?
Slate's Matt Yglesias thinks so and offers one explanation: "America's CEOs are paid a lot largely because other American CEOs are also paid a lot."
On the one hand, it might seem strange that John Watson of oil giant Chevron was paid "only" $22.3 million in 2012—less than the CEOs of CBS or Viacom, even though his company is much bigger than either. On the other hand, compare Watson to the CEO of the similarly sized French oil giant Total S.A.: poor Christophe de Margerie earned a mere $3 million in 2011 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). That same year, Watson brought home $18.1 million. The reason for this is both mysterious and epically clear—American chief executives are systematically better paid than CEOs from continental Europe or Japan. CEOs of U.K., Canadian, and other Anglophone firms tend to earn at close to American levels.
This, however, is a particularly poor example to make Yglesias's point. The reasons for the difference in pay at Chevron and Total are not "mysterious" at all. And it isn't just a matter of American CEOs being paid more than Europeans.