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    • Joe H

      I think this article covered all the relevant points. It was a pleasure to read.

      Like a broken record, I suppose, I will point out that what many of the Popes (actually all of the Popes) cited here are also on record as supporting is a wider distribution of productive property.

      That is to say, the whole question of ‘wages’ can be done away with if people become part-owners in economic enterprises, or at the least, if there is a greater expansion of those ‘intermediate’ organizations such as unions (or Pius XI’s ‘Industries and Professions’, a sort of modern guild system).

      In any event, the primacy of labor over capital, of the human element of production over the mechanical, the lifeless, the dead, is firmly established by the Church.

      We must emphasize and give prominence to the primacy of man in the production process, the primacy of man over things. Everything contained in the concept of capital in the strict sense is only a collection of things. Man, as the subject of work, and independently of the work that he does-man alone is a person. This truth has important and decisive consequences.

    • Kurt

      I see a three-headed hydra that bars the door to economic self-sufficiency in the western world. The three heads are compulsory education, child labor laws, and the minimum wage. The tragedy is all three were proposed to better the lot of the common man.

      Taken together, compulsory education and child labor laws bar a young person from gaining productive skills and instead often indoctrinate the youth with half-truths and unproven theories. Many children grow listless through 12 years of forced instruction, only to graduate with no education at all, and no work history to present to a potential employer. An employer is justified in questioning the employment potential of such an applicant.

      Twelve wasted years; and these are prime years of life. Why not apprenticeship? Learning by doing, and what is more, an indisputable record of proficiency, and the recommendation of the master enable the apprentice to ply his trade in society and society has the reputation of the master (perhaps himself the apprentice’s father) as a guarantee of the apprentice’s ability. Perhaps the apprentice only makes $2.00 an hour, but he is so young, perhaps even in his early teens, that he can unshamefully still enjoy the protection and provision of his parents and contribute to the family for a time until, through the instilling of thrift and industry, he has the means to establish himself. Furthermore, the youth’s time is not spent frivolously, he has less time to go smoke dope, look at dirty magazines, or get into fights.

      Eventually he leaves the nest and commands a wage commensurate with his skill, a wage suitable to raise a family.

      There is so much more to say, but perhaps in a subsequent post.

    • LV

      A good article, nicely outlining most of the debate.

      There was one more potential pitfall of a minimum wage (or minimum wage hikes) that the article didn’t address–the effect on consumer prices.

      The idea is that if all companies are forced to raise their expenses in some fashion, as the institution or (now) raising of the minimum wage would do, they would then pass that added cost on to their customers in the form of higher prices.

      Those higher prices across the board would, in all likelihood, more than offset any gain in buying power the wage increase had garnered, leaving the worker in an even worse position than before.

      In practice, it’s not really applicable at the moment, since most businesses already pay much more than the minimum wage. However, a high enough increase in the wage could bring it back into play.

    • Adriana

      I can give you a good rule of thumb to what constitutes a minimum wage, and that has to do with my freezing toes.

      Every Christmas I join the Interfaith appeal of my community, ringing the bell in front of a kettle to raise funds for the needs in our community. At times it can be bitter cold, and my toes complain.

      A great deal of the money collected there goes to supply the needs of what is called ‘working poor”, that is people who are trying to support a family on a minimum wage, or slightly above it.

      I do not feel very kindly about their employers, since I feel that they are cutting their manpower costs at my expense. If their employees can afford to stay in the area, and work for them, it is because I get my toes frozen.

      A just wage would be one that would allow a person who works full time not to have to rely on charity unless it was a truly crisis situation.

      My toes thank you for your attention.

    • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

      The law can do much to limit opportunity, to steal, to promote monopoly, etc. One thing the law cannot do is call wealth into existence by mandate. The minimum wage is the latter type of law. Any law mandating a “just” wage is also of the latter type–i.e., a futile attempt to create something from nothing.

      The laws of economics are laws in the sense of the laws of physics. They are facts. Moral action must take them into account. A man can choose whether or not to jump off a bridge. He cannot choose, once he has jumped, whether or not to fall. Thus, he cannot choose to jump and at the same time not choose to commit the sin of suicide.

      The Left believes the laws of economics are merely competing moral “claims” (made by the Right) which stand in the way of the Left’s excercise of power. Thus, these so-called “laws of economics” can be repealed, outlawed, nullified, or overruled by legislation.

      On this matter, the vast majority of clerical pronouncements line up with the Left.

      In other words, the vast majority of statements about “social justice” emitted by clergy during approximately the last century have been rubbish. I am not speaking of bona fide principles of justice, but of the policy preferences that are purportedly deduced from those principles.

      A single example: The USCCB supports socialized health care–but socialized health care that doesn’t murder people. They want to jump off the bridge, but without plunging fatally to earth.

      Socialized health care has resulted in mass murder and a hell-on-earth everywhere it has been tried. Except the next time, of course.

      The rank-and-file Catholic, like all other American citizens, is headed for the slaughterhouse, and the USCCB is cheering on the butchers.

    • Ender

      I have to say that I agree with Fr. Fitzpatrick. I understand the desire that all heads of households make a wage sufficient to support their families and I suppose something like that could theoretically be possible if all people were paid from one source … which is pretty much like saying if wishes were horses beggers would ride.

      There is no moral aspect in supporting or opposing the raising, lowering, or even elimination of the minimum wage, comments from the USCCB notwithstanding. It is not a moral question; it is an economic one. If one believes that the economic effect of a minimum wage is harmful there is certainly no sin in opposing it whether or not ones analysis is correct.

      I do not look to the Church for answers to economic problems any more than I look to her for answers to scientific ones. We have an obligation to consider the effects on the individual of any action but that action has to be based on what we think the effects actually will be, not on what we would like them to be. Pigs will not fly no matter how badly we wish they had wings.

    • Joe H

      The laws of economics are laws in the sense of the laws of physics.

      Ideas such as this are the jumping-off point for mad and dangerous regimes, be they to the left or right of common sense and morality.

      In any case, it just isn’t true. There are no iron laws, certainly none that resemble ‘the laws of physics’. There are tendencies and patterns, but those are influenced by cultural and political traditions, and other factors, in a way atoms cannot be.

      Of course only ‘the Left’ is interested in power. The ‘right’ had nothing to do with Pinochet’s bloody regime, it’s attempt to create an economic utopia based on the ideas of Milton Friedman and his technocrats, through the violent suppression of the workers (and much of the Church) in Chile.

      Come off this petty ideological partisan nonsense. Madmen exist at all ends of the political spectrum. And in the final analysis, economic activity is moral activity. We’ve had a minimum wage for decades and it hasn’t caused the collapse of civilization. It has increased during those decades, over time, without causing the sort of harm that has ever lead to a widespread demand for it’s removal.

      Seems to me that you couldn’t violate the laws of physics for that long without some pretty serious consequences. Seems to me that maybe it isn’t an iron law after all, just a matter of preference. Seems to me that the most prosperous periods this country or any other country has ever known has been when the state, business, and labor organizations have been balanced and respectful of each others right to exist and intervene in the economy, instead of becoming bogged down in fanatical ideological disputes where each tries to totally exclude the other. And it seems to me that this balance is exactly what the Church, in her wisdom, has always supported, to the chagrin of ideological fanatics everywhere.

    • Adriana

      Sure, I know the argument. Government cannot create wealth, anymore than dams and irrigation systems cannot create water. But without them we would be at the mercy of floods and droughts, wouldn’t we?

      Has anyone noticed that advocates of the free market sound very much like environmentalists? Their devotion to the free market is very much akin to devotion to the “balance of nature” and that “natural cures everything”, forgetting that bubonic plague is also part of the balance of nature (takes care of overpopulation…)

      Whatever it is, devotees of the free market are as aghast at the idea of any intervetion in it as much as Nature worshippers are aghast at the idea of anything artificial. Nature always knows best – and the Free Market is infallible.

      If we do not take nonsense from one of those groups, are we going to take nonsense from the other? Both of them posit the wisdom and benevolence of an unthinking entity, an abstract concept, neither of which cares if we, personally, live or die.

    • plcr

      It would seem that a discussion of jobs and wages would not be complete without some discussion of the role of the entrepreneur, without whom jobs would not be plentiful enough for us all to have one.

      If you have worked at a small business, you are aware that the entrepreneur, the guy who started and runs the company, has put things like his name, credit and often a portion of his life savings on the line in order to start the company. In addition he usually works harder and longer hours than the normal employee and also must make the difficult decisions

    • Mark

      “Madmen exist at all ends of the political spectrum.” – Joe

      Yes, Pinochet on the right and Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro on the left… all Socialists. Would you care to provide the death tolls of these regimes?

      ” And in the final analysis, economic activity is moral activity.” – Joe

      Joe, I’d be interested in hearing what you think Jesus meant when He said:

      “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” ?

      Thanks

    • Joe H

      Mark,

      First of all, Pinochet was not a socialist. He was praised by economists and politicians on the right, including Ronald Reagan. After the coup against Allende, with the help of the CIA, Pinochet’s regime enacted by decree ‘free market’ policies cooked up by Milton Friedman’s ‘Chicago Boys’.

      Secondly, Hitler was not a leftist in any meaningful sense of the word. This ridiculous meme has no foundation in the historical facts. Words can’t just mean whatever you want them to mean. Nazism and fascism are nationalist ideologies that are violently opposed to liberalism, trade unionism, cosmopolitanism, internationalism – i.e. hallmarks of the left.

      There isn’t a self-identified leftist or Nazi alive today that agrees that they are the same, moreover, and to a certain extent people must be entitled to define themselves, and not have definitions imposed upon them by others.

      Similarities there may be in their economic programs – I will concede that Nazism, fascism, Social Democracy, and even New Deal liberalism share many characteristics. But all of those in turn share characteristics with Catholic social teaching!

      But even American conservatives couldn’t escape some of the necessities imposed upon all of the world’s governments by the Depression. Every country was moved in the direction of ‘statism’ during that time. That doesn’t mean that they all became ‘leftists’. It meant that certain things that leftists recognized as true became true for everyone.

      Until Reagan and Thatcher everyone was a ‘leftist’ by the standards imposed today. Richard Nixon was a ‘leftist’, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a ‘leftist’. At a certain point this game becomes downright absurd.

      As for what Jesus said, what about it? He was trying to evade a trap set for him by the Pharisees, who were trying to get him to say something against Caesar to use against him. I think his statement about not being able to serve God and Mammon at the same time is of more relevance here.

    • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

      Straw man.

      I never said that just ANY bad economic policy would destroy civilization. There are all kinds of harm that can be done to people without ending civilization.

      The minimum wage has always caused unemployment. It is causing it now. If it is reduced, the damage will be less; if it is raised, the damage will be increased. If it were raised to $1000/hour, it WOULD end civilization.

      The laws of economics are true laws, having their basis in the very nature of the human mind and will.

      If you were committed to making only valid (i.e., honest) arguments, rather than specious ones, you would have avoided the use of The Straw Man.

    • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

      Another Straw Man.

      The free market is not a mindless, inanimate, uncaring entity.

      The free market is a social phenomenon, in which the knowledge, needs, intelligence, and creativity of millions or billions of people, are coordinated through the price system, which transmits information to the persons participating in the market, enabling them efficiently to compare the desirability and cost of labor and commodities.

      In a command economy, the transmission of knowledge through prices is quashed. A command economy is fundamentally anti-human, anti-liberty, and anti-life.

      To advocate in favor of a free market is not to deny all functions to government, any more than advocating freedom to travel is to advocate the abolition of speed limits and lane markings.

      If your argument were valid (which it is not), then advocating ANY human freedom would be illegitimate, because it would be advocating anarchy.

      The persistent resort to age-old, transparent logical fallacies is the consequence of intellectual dishonesty, which is a moral flaw.

    • Joe H

      Father, did I say that you claimed that minimum wage laws would lead to the end of civilization? Let me set the record straight. I don’t think that’s your view. It was just a little hyperbole on my part, that’s all.

      Lots of things cause unemployment. The prospect of taking advantage of cheap labor somewhere else causes a lot of unemployment. Meanwhile, American voters, to my knowledge, have never voted down a minimum wage increase, ever. I may be wrong, but I know that in recent times minimum wage propositions always pass by overwhelming majorities. It seems to cross party lines, cultural lines, racial lines. It seems to be one of the few issues on which a majority of Americans agree.

      You can’t simply claim that the voters are a bunch of ignorant fools, either, if that’s how you’re inclined to explain it – there are enough pro-business lobbies that put out enough political propaganda to try and convince everyone why raising the minimum wage is a bad idea. Either the voters don’t buy it, or they don’t care. If we could put outsourcing and downsizing to votes as well (which we would be able to in a just economy where workers were not disposable cogs in a machine), they would lose.

      I think workers would rather see jobs saved by simply not taking them and giving them to foreigners for less pay than allowing business to have sole and free reign over wages in the vague and distant hope that unemployment might eventually go down a few percentage points. Perhaps they see the argument about the elimination of minimum wages leading to job creation in the same way they see the argument about tax cuts leading to job creation – that its a bunch of self-serving nonsense dished out by big business through its political mouthpieces and media outlets. Kind of like Wal-Mart’s rhetoric about why unions are no longer necessary.

    • Austin

      If we truly had “Free markets” it would be one thing, but cutthroat capitalists have sent our manufacturing offshore, assisted in flooding the country with illegal aliens, such that the working people of this nation have gotten screwed every way possible. Father Fitzpatrick seems to think that cutthroat capitalism is a good thing, but it is not.

      Capitalism is like anything else, it can be abused and get out of control. People need rules and guidelines [Wall st greed and ponzi schemes are evidence of this]. Father Fitzpatrick, what do you think of Bernie Madoff? Ken Lay? Dennis Kozolsky?
      All the Wall st and AIG crooks? You seem to have more faith in cutthroat capitalism than most of us do.

    • chcrix

      With all the talk about exploitation of the workers let us not pass over the greatest exploiter of them all – the state itself.

      Look at the taxes that our poorest workers pay.

      And as an added bonus, the state claims the very right (under conscription) to take away life itself.

    • Adriana

      Fr. Fitzpatrick

      The free market has no more morality than the one human beings bring to it. It might, for prudential reasons enforce certain behaviors, but a) those behaviors do not cover all the theological virtues and b) those behaviors are only encouraged among those who participate allowing different behaviors when dealing with a different kind of people.

      Only human beings are capable of morality. Any institution or phenomenon is an amoral entity.

      Consider Milton Friedman’s dictum that the only responsibility a company has is towards its investors. He himself admits the basic amorality of human insitutions. According to him, if IBM helped provide a genocidal regime, such as the Nazis, with means to track down efficietnly the people they wished to exterminate, such as the Jews who were Friedman’s relatives, if it made a profit, then it would be a praiseworthy act.

      Or consider trafficking. The women and children sold into sexual slavery are bought and sold through free market mechanisms. This would be an example of the market enforcing virtuous behavior towards a certain kind of people (other buyers and sellers) and none towards a different kind of people (those bought and sold).

      There is much to be said for the free market. But it is not an all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful diety. To forget it is to engage in idolatry.

    • Ender

      It is amazing how quickly a discussion can get off the rails and into the swamps. The topic of the article was the minimum wage and Catholic social teaching, the opposition to which (the former) is now equated with support for cutthroat capitalism and all the imagined horrors that might inhabit such a non-existent world.

      Raising the minimum wage always eliminates some jobs. Even the Congressional Democrats don’t dispute that; the dispute, rather, is over the number of jobs that are lost and whether the good that is done in giving some people higher wages more than offsets for the acknowledged harm. That debate is not a referendum on Pinochet, the Nazis, or slave traders.

      In any event, there is nothing in Catholic social teaching that mandates support for the minimum wage. That may not be an interesting point but I think it was the point the article sought to address and I really doubt that any case can be made that this conclusion is incorrect.

    • Kurt

      To all who have made the claim that dirty capitalist cutthroats send their jobs overseas to take advantage of the lower wages there, consider this: were there no minimum wage, there would be no incentive to move those jobs overseas, would government not tax business so severely, firms would be less likely to flee.

      What are we entitled to as persons? That “becoming” lifestyle that St. Thomas asserts, what is that? A lexus in every driveway? a chevy? a horse and buggy, a bicycle? WHAT?! Answer me that, “distributivist, communalist” Catholics! In either concrete terms or in an abstraction that proceeds through its own internal logic to a consistent and feasible conclusion.

      A man has a desire for a family, but no woman wants to marry him, should women then be guilted into dating undesirable men? A husband and a wife want a child, but they are barren, should supremely fertile couples who are capable of taking care of their large family be guilted into giving up a child for the barren couple’s adoption? A man and woman have one child, want another but could in no way afford to raise another, should anyone be guilted into paying them more so they may have another child?

      By the way, AIG, Enron, Madoff, these are not the poster boys for capitalism, these are poster boys for greed. Capitalism is an institution like marriage (no, I am not saying capitalism is a sacrament). A greedy man can misuse capitalism and bilk his clients, and a lusty man can misuse marriage and rape his wife, but its not the institution that is internally flawed, it is the fallen man. Grace is no less necessary in capitalism than it is in marriage, but at least capitalism and marriage work in practice unlike command economies and cohabitation. Further through the cooperation with grace in either marriage or capitalism, the fallen man both is sanctified and benefits his fellow man. Again, I am not equating capitalism with a high sacrament, but the analogy is apt.

    • Austin

      Capitalism if properly employed can be an effective economic system, but the whole idea of “Grace” in capitalism sounds a bit weird to me. “The fallen man is sanctified” with capitalism? Capitalism itself is neither good nor evil, but in its application can be either, depending on the people employing it. Kurt, you appear to be something of an apologist for the greedy, “greed is good?” The Gospel according to Saint Gordon Gecko? I am no redistributionist Communist, I think the capitalism we had back in the 1960′s, 1970′s and 1980′s seemed to work, however, deregulation and pure greed, the “Gospel” as preached by Saint “W” does not appear to work. Perhaps we should get Rome to cannonize Bernie Madoff?

    • Kurt

      Sorry for the long post, this will be my last, unless specifically addressed by others.

      As I said in my 1st comment, there is so much to say, but the combox is not the place, I guess. I hope this post contributes to a meaningful debate of the subject of this article, though it is a remote rather than an immediate contribution to this discussion.

      Austin,

      I am absolutely not an apologist for greed, I am an apologist for capitalism. I NOWHERE said that capitalism generates grace and bestows it on economic actors. I said grace is NECESSARY in capitalism. I maintain that we live in a fallen world, that we all suffer the effects of concupiscence, in the case of economic activity, the tendency of fallen man is to succumb to greed. Grace FROM THE LORD, our God, is necessary to counteract the tendency toward greed in the market, just as grace FROM THE LORD, our God, is needed to counteract the tendency of lust in man toward a woman, in particular his wife in the case of marriage.

      Sanctification occurs through the person’s cooperation with the grace the Lord gives, with this cooperation with grace the marketplace transforms from a stumbling block to character formation into a stepping stone to character formation, in particular by a man’s honest trading with his fellow man to the mutual benefit of both.

      The idea that “W.” (who I heartily disagree with on many subjects) was a champion of capitalism, properly understood, is laughable. The 1960s and 70s in the U.S. were marked with social upheaval and economic turmoil culminating in the brink of collapse during the Carter administration (and I’m not saying its because he was a democrat), the economy was regulated into paralysis. In the 1980′s the erroneous conflation of capitalism with the moral system of Gordon Gecko in “Wall Street” has led to a caricature of capitalism which has been a disservice to the national and intra-Catholic discussion on economic fundamentals. Wall Street buying influence and favor from the government to improve their lot is not capitalism, it is corruption.

      I nowhere mentioned redistributivist communists, I said distributivist communalist, but what I should have said was not communalism, but communitarian. The former is a proponent of the state organizing the economic activity of the population (communitarian), collecting taxes from all or some and then distributing the revenue to those the state chooses (redistributive). The latter is the preferred economic model of Chesterton and Belloc, by which the means of production are shared by a greater number of individuals than tends to occur under capitalist individualism (distributivism) and where the community as opposed to the individual (or the state) is seen as the fundamental cell of society (communitarianism).

      Before a healthy discussion can occur we must all have the same definition of terms.

      On a personal note, I believe that the fundamental cell of society is the family, which is a community of individuals. At the same time, I think that the minimum wage militates against the family, as do many of our goverment policies regarding the economy.

    • Stephanus Mattheus

      Joe H mentions that the minimum wage is very popular, and in fact it is. (This does not mean it is either good, effective, or efficient.) The reason for this is mostly rational, with a small dose of the usual sort of irrationality found in politics.

      Let us start with the average working person earning more than minimum wage. For most people there is the idea the minimum wage will help the poor, so they favor it. They also think it may trickle up/down to boost their wage. Further, they do not link it to a significant increase in the prices they pay. After all, prices are constantly changing, and it is difficult for the common person (or even the economist) to know by how much prices will increase. Thus for your average worker increasing the minimum wage seems like good policy, and rationally it doesn’t really do them any harm.

      Now take the person at the lowest end of the spectrum earning the current minimum. This person has the hope (perhaps real, perhaps false) that raising the minimum wage will give them a raise. Significant numbers of these people will given the new wage, simply because certain jobs must be done, and they may still be the cheapest option. Some firms will find ways to boost productivity of these low wage workers to justify the larger wage. Others will pay the higher wage either out of kindness, or perhaps for fear of creating a bad imagine with their workers or the public. However, some will in the end lose their job, or lose some of their hours. The company may decide whatever they do isn’t worth the cost, or can be done some other way, or even can be shipped out. Those who lose their jobs may never know it was the increase in minimum wage that did it. Therefore, for the minimum wage earner, it would be rational to take the chance on being one of those who benefits.

      Now what about the big business people?
      Some of them do argue against the minimum wage. However, by and large they have the ability to deal with the disadvantages. They can invest in worker training or equipment to boost productivity. They can move overseas. They can probably land some sweetheart deal with the government that more than makes up for this. Some will rationally oppose the increase, others will decide that political and PR considerations make it rational to support the minimum wage.

      Who loses?

      The low wage earners who lose hours or lose jobs. Their families and communities also lose. The small business that can’t easily absorb new costs loses when it suddenly is forced by politics to change its wages and prices. (Note that while minimum wage law over rides and voids contract provisions for laborers, it does nothing for contracts the business has signed with its customers, which were negotiated in good faith under the assumption of the labor contracts being honored.) Further, small family business have an intrusion into their own internal family affairs (or, like many, they are forced to ignore the law and give some people cash under the table, eroding respect for the law and technically becoming criminals). Finally, there are many good causes or charities that have quasi volunteers that it would perhaps be appropriate to pay some small consideration to, but that can not be paid at all due to such laws (yet the government exempts its own operations such as AmeriCorps and Peace Corps in creative ways).

      Mostly we favor it because we don’t think it will hurt us or anyone we know and love, and it makes us feel good. We get to feel like we are helping the poor, and yet we never have to see them.

      Mostly the minimum wage is harmless. It does help a few, and it also devastates the small number unemployed because of it.

    • Stephanus Mattheus

      There is a hierarchy of the fields of scientific study. Math is generally acknowledged to be the field with the most certitude in its laws, and there is something of a sliding scale as things become more distant from pure math.
      Physics is perhaps in second place, followed by chemistry, then biology, then into perhaps medicine.

      (Though one could argue that either Theology, since it is the study of that which is most true is the highest of sciences. Alternatively, some argue Philosophy, based on pure reason, is the highest.)

      At some point you encounter social sciences and the like. These are far removed from pure math, but are still scientific and do have laws, theories, etc that seek to describe nature just like math and the hard sciences. Economics is perhaps in the highest order of the social sciences with its theories having relatively solid grounding in math and providing good descriptive abilities and reasonable predictive abilities.

      Some argue that social sciences are not true sciences, and this is false. They are not the sort of “hard” science found in high school, but yet they do strive to follow the scientific method and present scientific laws and theories. We must all realize that models, theories, and laws, are attempts to describe/predict the real world, but are not in fact how the real world works in every detail. Scientific knowledge is also always subject to change and revision. If some “scientific fact” ever becomes unchallengeable it is no longer part of scientific knowledge or reasoning.

      Social sciences, such as economics, present theories and models that attempt to describe past and present phenomenon and hope to be able to predict future results. However, economics predictive abilities are not nearly so exact as meteorology. After all, the total number of humans involved with all of their minds, emotions, and free will are a part of the equation. In economics it is impossible to really give a fair test to a model, because it is impossible to create a controlled experiment where only a single variable is manipulated and the results observed.

    • Stephanus Mattheus

      It really bothers me when people blame “deregulation” or “laize-faire economics” for our current crisis.

      I have come to the conclusion that those who make this charge really don’t mean it. Perhaps they misunderstand the issue and are describing it as best they can. Perhaps the do understand and choose these terms to convey some idea to the hearer other than what the words actually say.

      In any case, since we have had no real policy of either deregulation, or a true unfettered free market, it is impossible to rationally blame such things for the current crisis.

    • D.B.

      …would have us put our trust in the State, through redistribution of wealth…whether it is through outright nationalization, or redistribution schemes of taxation. A “Catholic Utopia” of people living middle age village life is a fantasy, as much as a Socialist utopia or a Libertarian American Republic…

      Joe, you continue to sing the song of distributism, but how would the concentration of wealth be broken up and divvied out? It would be through repressive means…through the State. That is what it would take to realize your dream. Most people are not going to give up large swaths of their property in the interest of “Justice”…it doesn’t respect Private property at all. If someone wishes to buy more land, and someone is willing to sell that land…that would upset your whole scheme, because property would become consolidated and concentrated in fewer hands…is the State going to deny them the right to sell off their property? Again, that isn’t respect for private property.

    • Matt Talbot

      Those who denounce “Cutthroat Capitalism” would have us put our trust in the State, through redistribution of wealth…whether it is through outright nationalization, or redistribution schemes of taxation.

      When we put “our trust in the state” in the United States, we’re really putting our trust in each other, because we live in a representative democracy; “the state” isn’t some foreign entity that has dictatorial power over us (despite the best efforts of the authoritarians in the previous administration, I might add).

    • Faciamus

      and Matt Talbot apparently doesn’t know that we actually live in a Constitutional Republic (at least that’s what it was founded as) and not a representative democracy.
      Matt, it appears from your comment that you also subscribe to the philosophy that as long as your party is in power then we have nothing to worry about. Let’s be intellectually honest here and admit that both parties are two sides of the same coin. They both favor bigger government and more intrusion into our personal lives. They only differ on minor issues pertaining to the level and speed of intrusion. The Constitution was meant to limit the power of government no matte who was in power, because the state always seeks to grow and increase it’s power, and always at the expense of the liberties of the populance.

    • D.B.

      I have some beach front property in Nebraska that might just be up your alley.

      Do you honestly believe that government can be trusted with our money any more than corporations can? I have no love for plutocracy, but I hold no romantic illusions about the US government…it is as self interested, wasteful and can be as inept as any corporation out there. Human nature is what it is…

    • Matt Talbot

      Why do Republicans define a minimum wage and universal health care as “tyranny”, but yet they professed confusion about whether waterboarding is actually torture? It seems that it is only when we the people use our government to help each other out that you’re complaining about how it’s taking away your freedom.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: government helping the poor, workers, etc. good: government torturing people, bad. Is that so hard?

      One of the legitimate functions of government is to help balance society by counterbalancing the power of business in order to benefit workers and the poor. Places where this doesn’t happen are places in the news with the phrase “armed revolution” mentioned as part of the story.

      I think the minimum wage ought to be set at 80% of the poverty line, indexed to inflation, and further increased every year by the amount that overall productivity increases in the economy.

      I also think the provisions of Taft-Hartley that allow the South to continue “right-to-work” union busting should be repealed, after the Employee Free Choice Act is passed.

      Virtually all the benefits of productivity increases have gone to the top of the income scale over the last 30 years or so; we workers want our share back.

    • Joe H

      DB,

      I reject the notion that the only two ways we can arrange property is through big business or big government.

      Why can you only envision repressive means? People start new businesses all the time, it isn’t illegal to start a new town either as far as I know, and I also believe at least some wealthy people can be convinced that it is a good a idea.

      All of that being said, if we had a just state guided by sound moral principles I don’t think it would be intrinsically wrong for it to take measures to prevent social polarization. You can’t read Quadragesimo Anno and conclude that the state NEVER has a right to regulate property and personal wealth. Pius XI condemned ‘insolent displays of wealth’, he condemned vast concentrations of economic wealth and power, and he flat out rejected the argument that the state had no role to play in dealing with the problem.

      He also said that the only way to respect private property is to regulate it. I agree. Do you really think that preserving private property for some, to exclusion of the majority, is going to preserve private property in the long run? Only as sentimental ideal, certainly not as a practical reality. And what good is private property if you only have a right to it in theory?

    • Adriana

      Stephanus, you said it best

      “Economics is not as reliable as meteorology”

      We all have a good tale to tell about the reliability of meteorology (e.g. “Dear Sirs: you might be interested to know that I just shoveled two inches of the ‘partially cloudy weather’ you predicted).

      And economy is even worse, since it has to do with not just physics but with mental processes, and what people decide that they “need” or “are unable to bear”, which as John Lukacs noted, fall into the activities of Mind, not supposedly fixed naatural laws. In the example he gives, Switzerland, a very poor country, became rich when Europeans who up to now saw mountains as dreary an dangerous, suddenly found them attractive and wholesome. The same mountains, but different attitudes.

      So, when somebody talks to you about the Laws of Economics, remember how many times the local forecast center screwed up.

    • D.B.

      Mr. Talbot:

      I oppose forced unionization, and support right to work laws. If I choose to work for less, that is MY BUSINESS. I will negotiate my own labor contract, thank you. And if the Union got more generous terms, I would continue to stick with the terms I negotiated, because I’m a stubborned goat on my principles.

      Joe H:
      “Take Measures to Prevent Social Polarization”….right there. What kind of measures, Joe? Not everybody wants to own 40 acres and a mule, or juggle the responsibility of ownership in a company. Taking away my right to sell my property to whoever I wish is not Private Property, it isn’t freedom. I’m ok with regulations….regulations that prevent fraud, breach of contracts, and outright theft…in addition to sensible zoning laws. Your skewed interpretation of Papal documents don’t wash…if you want to live like Obi Wan Kenobi in the Tattooine desert, that is great…more power to you…and God Bless…but if you attempt to use the instrument of the State to force everybody else into it, I have a big problem with that…and will fight it…pure and simple.

    • Joe H

      Does this ‘wash’ with you?

      [Pope Benedict] said that world leaders should “intervening firmly to eliminate the inequality engendered by unjust systems, and so allowing everyone a standard of living that enables them to live a dignified and prosperous existence”…

      He also launched an appeal for “greater fraternity and solidarity, and real global generosity”, and for “developed countries to rediscover a sense of proportion and sobriety in their economies and lifestyles“.

      http://tinyurl.com/d36srl

      I haven’t skewed the Popes. I’ve read them.

    • D.B.

      …and there is nothing there that says the State should use coercive measures to force people to play nice. It is an appeal to do so…..Charity that is done at gunpoint or under threat of government is not Charity at all.

    • Matt Talbot

      DB – you seem stuck on some notion that everything our government does is “coercion,” as if this is Stalinist Russia or Germany in the 1930s.

      A progressive tax system, strong unions and modest redistribution were hallmarks of the New Deal era, presided over by a group of folks often called “The Greatest Generation.” The top marginal tax rate during the presidency of that fiery Leninist, Ike, was between 91.5% and 94%

    • Dave

      it penalizes you with violence for doing something within your rights, Matt.

      Being an unemployed graduate for well over a year now while living on the border, I am infuriated that I cannot offer an employer a more competitive wage against a foreigner or more experienced worker. Of course I COULD offer it, but with the potential criminal liability I wouldn’t blame the employer for hiring an illegal alien instead. In these desperate times, I wouldn’t blame him at all!

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