Tithing and the Latest Flap

Every once in a while I pop my head out of my obscure isolation and wonder at what I see.

Today, I noticed a number of articles about the fact that there was a pay gap between the two actors on The Crown playing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.

Everyone is outraged that Claire Foy, whose realization of the young Queen Elizabeth is brilliant, received less per episode than Matt Smith, who sometimes wandered on screen and realized the role of Prince Phillip.

It would be brilliant if we could be paid for our great performance. Claire Foy is amazing in that mini-series. I recommend it (but skip the episode about Princess Margaret’s polyamorous husband-to-be if you don’t want to see actors’ bodies without clothing – a bit of art that is far less pornographic than the reality, but pornographic nonetheless).

Back to the pay gap.

Here’s the thing. Matt Smith had become a very well-known actor prior to accepting the role in The Crown. Matt wasn’t being paid for what he was doing on The Crown, per se, but to secure his talents given the high demand warranted by his prior work.

Claire Foy is amazing. But her prior work is not extensive. She was in the biopic Breathe and a couple other things. Demand for Claire Foy wasn’t particularly high. And so the producers cut themselves a bargain and offered her what she would take, rather than what it would become clear she was worth.

Which leads me to contemplate LDS tithing.

I like how we do tithing in the Church. It’s 10% no matter how much you make. There are no step functions that disincentivize people from excelling. And the leaders do not go around squeezing more than 10% out of those they think they can con into being more generous. I mean, people can be more generous, but the don’t call it tithing.

Wouldn’t it be delicious if we could know at the moment we act how eternity (and the future internet) would judge us?

But except for the hope/fear that God will judge with omniscience, we can’t know what the future will do to our legacy. If you doubt that, just consider Joseph Smith, who as far as I can tell was an amazingly compassionate, wise, and good human being. But the internet hasn’t yet gotten around to admitting it.

Now back to my isolated obscurity.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

11 thoughts on “Tithing and the Latest Flap

  1. +1 to that. With the caveat that we can be more specific than “destructive”, and clarify it as “leaving mountains of corpses in its wake”.

  2. “Corpses in its wake” seems extreme for something like paying talent for entertainment.

    Or giving kids equal shares of a delicious edible treat.

    Perhaps you are thinking of Marxism?

  3. Meg, the situation with entertainment compensation is that they are usually done on a bidding/negotiating system -prior- to the work performed.

    The economics of British TV, at least the BBC, last I read up, was that it was based on a license fee for support, not ad revenues like the American system.

    Actors in the US sometimes have the option of negotiating an up front salary, plus a certain percentage of revenue or profits. (percent of revenue is better, because creative cost-accounting can cause profits to never materialize.)

    The “value” of an actor going in is really based on past performance, or “box office draw”. Smith had better “draw” going in, so at the time of the negotiations, he was actually worth more, in fact.

    The siutation is a little similar to the arguments about minimum wage. Low wages allow businesses to hire unknowns. Upon proof of performance, they can renogiate. Enforcing high salaries for all up front would keep out unknowns and up-and-comers, and would thereby suppress competition, improvement, and excellence.

    I don’t know if there was an unknown-in-advance amount of ad revenue that could be divvied up after the Crown series started, or whether budget and revenue was totally fixed before shooting started. In the former, actors could have negotiated for a percent of revenue as part of their compensation. And it still might be available for “residuals” from future reruns.

    But if everything, budget and revenue, was fixed up front, then there is no basis for after-the-fact complaints. Smith negotiated X based on his past record. Foy negotiated Y based on her past record. And they have to live with it.

    But now that producers see that Foy is a “draw”, her value has increased and she can negotiate higher compensation in the future.

    In fact , Foy did receive lots of value from the deal: exposure. The producers gambled on her (and deserve whatever they make on that gamble). She got an opportunity, which really ended up lucrative for her, a chance to showcase her talents. Call it “paying your dues.” Now, her future earnings are much higher than if she hadn’t had this opportunity to show off her talents.

    And… I am reminded of the parable of the laborers. “Hey, you agreed to it. Quitcher bellyachin’.”

    Also, BC’s quote is restricted to PC-ism/politics. There are some things the Lord said about equality in spiritual things, re law of consecration, etc.

  4. I like your point that a tithing paid as a percent makes thinks fair and equal. In this case I think it work wonderfully, but not in every case. Consider my experience here:
    Paying for a family reunion
    Costs are food and facility mainly.
    There are 9 parties to split the cost.
    Some families are larger/smaller. They ate more food and slept in ore beds (or not)
    Some had to travel further. (4 hr drive vs 3 day drive vs airline costs, vs international travel)
    Some are more financially able to contribute, some less.
    Some of the siblings have adult children who are attending independently. (perhaps married with their own kids. Do they pay a full share or?
    Some perhaps didn’t stay for the full duration.

    **Stay tuned for the next message to see how we worked it out!

  5. Here is what we did…
    We announced the full costs that needed to be covered. One large number.
    We acknowledged the factors previously stated.
    We asked everybody to contribute their fair share but did not specify in any more detail.
    We said if these costs were not covered adequately we would come around again.
    We asked everyone to come a pay the clerk privately (usually me).
    When people gave me checks I cashed them. If they gave me cash I stuffed it in my pocket. I had little idea who paid what amounts.

    This had worked everytime so far and has never resulted in any fighting.

  6. When I took a postgraduate class on financial analysis and management accounting, I was horrified to learn that it’s an art form.

    @The Other Brother Jones, It is nice that your family has been able to manage reunions with so little strife. However that would not be an appropriate model for a business (such as making entertainment and paying talent).

  7. Meg. It is true that my model is not universal. But I think the United Order is supposed to work that way. It works because no one is looking to find fault. All are working together, paying together, in whatever way they can. Some are less able.That is fine. Some are more generous. That is what makes it work. But it might not be very scale-able beyond smallish communities. It certainly is not how capitalism works today.

  8. I love your anecdote, Other Brother Jones. I hope my family always works together like yours has. We have had interesting conversations about family reunion costs, with everyone wanting to pay their share, but not sure what it should be because of the difference in incomes (which everyone is just guessing) and the difference in family size. I’m not sure why, but it reminds me of an experience. Years ago, several young dads in my ward (me and some friends) were complaining about finances. Things are expensive, work doesn’t pay enough – the usual. I commented that I get paid plenty, and the other guys were saying they get paid lousy. As our conversation progressed, someone finally asked everyone what kind of pay range they were bellyaching about. Turned out that my plenty was about $20-30,000 less than their lousy. The conversation moved quickly to other things.

  9. What about the person who pays 10% tithing and then buys health insurance (which the government is interfering in the marketplace to raise its rates) vs the person who pays 10% tithing and is given health insurance as part of their compensation (or even housing)? The high tax European pays generally on their net, because they never see the other income which disappears into the administrative state, and doles out benefits as well.

    The IRS would view this as a kind of money/benefit laundering to lower your taxable income, by shifting your compensation into consumption goods.

    You can imagine the future nanny state where even your food is “free” like your health care, but taxes and subsidies are so high.

    We all aren’t paying the same 10% in reality. This isn’t the Lord’s problem though, but it does suggest lower tithing donations the more taxes go up and/or benefits go up as well.

  10. Hi Rgb,

    Since tithing is determined by the individual donated (rather than any Church official), we already aren’t paying the same 10%. My husband have discussions about what to use as the basis for our 10%, and I’m certain that since we don’t agree, that not everyone tithes on the same basis we do.

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