The Minimum Wage and Catholic Social Teaching

When the Democratic Party gained control of Congress three years ago, as part of its “100 Hour” plan it quickly introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. The partisan debate was predictable: Democratic advocates of the raise cited concern for poor and working families, and Republican opponents cited concern for the impact the hike may have on small business and overall employment.
Minimum wage laws are a fixture of economic life in the United States and most Western countries, and they have been around long enough that most people take them for granted. But since the 1980s and the rise of conservatism as a political force, many conservative or libertarian thinkers have called their legitimacy into question. On the other hand, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) consistently supports not only minimum wage laws themselves, but usually advocates raising them. In its “Action Memo” for January 19, 2007, the USCCB urged passage of the minimum wage bill, citing Church teaching that demands a just wage for workers. The current debate about minimum wage laws presents an opportunity to explore several questions: What are the Catholic principles that should guide our thinking about wages? Does Church teaching tell us what the minimum wage should be, or even whether we should have minimum wage laws at all?
Advocates or critics of minimum wage laws often presuppose the answer to an important underlying question: Is it legitimate for the state to interfere with or regulate economic affairs, and if so, to what extent? Conservatives, in general, hold that government intrusion into all facets of human life, economic activity included, should be kept to a minimum: that the government should confine itself to policing against theft or fraud, to protecting workers from outright exploitation, and to enforcing contracts. This seems to be a correlative of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which stipulates that “a community of a higher order [such as the state] should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order [such as a village or family], depriving it of its functions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1883). Some libertarians would push this idea even further, holding that almost any kind of contract entered into freely between responsible adults is legitimate, legally binding, and not subject to government regulation. And so, they would argue, even a contract between a prostitute and her customer, since entered freely, is perfectly legitimate and should not be prohibited by law.
But in the Catholic tradition, the state must, as the Catechism teaches, “defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies” (1910). Furthermore, “the state has a responsibility for its citizens’ well-being” (2372). Toward these ends, the state has a legitimate role to play in the ordering of economic life. For this reason, in his great encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII wrote that, in the interest of resolving (or at least minimizing) the conflict between labor and employers, the Church maintains that “for this purpose recourse should be had, in due measure and degree, to the intervention of the law and of State authority” (16). Pope John Paul II elaborated on this teaching in Centesimus Annus, saying:
Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. Hence the principal task of the State is to guarantee this security, so that those who work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labours and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and honestly (48).
It seems, then, that the state is justified in intervening in the economic life of its citizens in order to secure their rights and to promote the common good. By this rationale, a laissez-faire capitalist system, such as that favored by some libertarians, is simply not a licit option, nor would promoting such a system be consistent with the Catholic Faith.

The Worker Deserves His Wage

Since we’ve established that the state can intervene in the economy in order to promote the common good, the next question is, what is the teaching of the Church regarding the wages of workers? First, the Church observes biblical admonitions such as Deuteronomy 24:15:
You shall pay him [the hired man or servant] each day’s wages before sundown on the day itself, since he is poor and looks forward to them. Otherwise he will cry to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty.

In view of this passage and others, such as James 5:4, the Church has taught that depriving a worker of his just wages, whether by withholding them or failing to pay a just wage, is gravely sinful (
CCC 2434), and in fact has called it one of the four “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.” This is the case, as Leo XIII wrote, because “the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred” (RN 20).
Workers are due their wages as a matter of justice. The Catechism tells us that “a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work” (2434). But a just wage is not that which will merely provide sufficient food, clothing, and shelter. To live at a subsistence level is to live at the minimum condition of human dignity, and, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica, “No one is obliged to live unbecomingly.”
A just wage, then, should provide a worker with enough to live, and perhaps a little more, so as to enable him to live “becomingly.” The Church has, therefore, always desired that the worker not remain trapped at a subsistence level, but be able to better his condition: The degree of independence the worker gains by doing so increases his dignity, which is part and parcel of living becomingly. To obtain property, then, whether in the form of real property or durable possessions, is a principal object of every worker. The worker, by living “sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings,” and has the “hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life” (RN 5).
Pope Pius XI, 40 years after Leo XIII, elaborated on this theme in his social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, saying that by accumulating property, workers can emerge “from that hand-to-mouth uncertainty which is the lot of the proletarian. Thus they will not only be in a position to support life’s changing fortunes, but will also have the reassuring confidence that when their lives are ended, some little provision will remain for those whom they leave behind them” (61). This principle led John Paul II to write that the accumulation of property is necessary “for the autonomy and development of the person” (CA 30).
Apart from the worker’s own dignity, though, there is another practical reason to pay the worker a decent wage, which even the most hard-nosed capitalist could embrace: By becoming more substantial citizens, people are no longer plagued by the feelings of hopelessness and dispossession that often characterize the lives of the poor. A man with property has a stake in his community; he is rooted, as it were. A man with property is more inclined to look to the future and make provision for it. It is well-known that stable neighborhoods of homeowners have far less crime and other social problems than those otherwise composed. Just wages, then, by promoting the dignity and independence of the worker, lead to greater stability and cohesion in society.

What Is a Just Wage?

But how are we to determine the “just” wage? For economists, wages are the price that an employer must pay to obtain the labor of his employees. This price must be sufficient to overcome the “disutility” of labor (the human inertia tending against labor that must be overcome by sufficient motivation), and must take into account the relative ease or difficulty of the labor involved, as well as the relative abundance or scarcity of people in the labor pool who can perform the required work. Because of these factors, wages are, to a certain extent, governed by the same market factors that influence the price of goods.
For example, varieties of work calling for skills that are rare or acquired only with long periods of training (such as neurosurgery or nuclear engineering) tend to pay high wages, whereas varieties of work that call for few skills or skills that are relatively common (like landscaping or washing dishes) tend to pay low wages. Varieties of work that may not be intrinsically difficult but are unpleasant (such as sanitation work) are frequently well-paid.
However, wages are not solely governed by “market” factors. People can, and often do, work for reasons beyond simple economic utility. Missionaries and those who work among the poor submit themselves to great privations and hardships in order to serve God and their fellow men. People in the military frequently acquire highly valuable and rare skills, yet soldiers are almost never well-paid. But they willingly offer their services, usually out of a sense of patriotism or duty to their country.
Because of the great variety of work people do, the scarcity or abundance of different skills, and the non-economic factors that influence the kinds of work in which people choose to engage, it is not possible to propose any kind of formula or rule by which one may calculate a universal just wage. Furthermore, differences in local conditions influence what may be considered just. A salary of $50,000 a year might be considered quite comfortable in one part of the country, whereas somewhere else such a salary might be considered only adequate.
The Church recognizes this reality, and acknowledges, as Leo XIII did in Rerum Novarum, that many factors must go into determining whether wages are just.
One method advanced by 19th-century economists for determining wages was the “value-added” theory. Under this theory, an employee’s wages are determined by calculating the economic value his work product adds to the total production of the employee’s company. However, this theory is inadequate because it cannot readily account for the “value” added to the corporate bottom line of certain classes of workers. For example, a cleaning woman at a factory does not, in any appreciable way, contribute to its actual production; nonetheless, she must be paid. But the value-added theory won’t be of much help. This theory later became an embarrassment as it was co-opted by Marxists and socialists as justification for denying capitalists of any return on their investments, in the interest of giving workers the full due for their labor.
Another theory that tends to be popular among the “Austrian” economists (such as Ludwig von Mises) might be called a strict “market” approach to determining wages. In this theory, the employer determines wages simply on the basis of local market forces in the labor pool. Under this theory, if welders are in short supply and you need to hire a welder, you’ll have to pay him more than you might if you were in another locale where they were more abundant. A corollary of this approach is an evaluation of what the market will bear. Therefore, if welders in your locale are, on average, paid $20 per hour, you will have to pay about that much. If you offer less, you may not be able to find a welder, or may be forced to hire welders of inferior competence. If you require above-average welders, you may offer somewhat more than the going rate in order to have your pick of the labor pool. The problem with this theory is that, while it works empirically to describe the real world, it cannot tell you how welders’ wages got to $20 an hour in the first place.
From a Catholic perspective, these theories are problematic for other reasons. Pius XI condemned the “value-added” theory of wages in Quadragesimo Anno, saying:

Entirely false is the principle, widely propagated today, that the worth of labor and therefore the return to be made for it, should equal the entire value added. Thus the right to the full product of his toil is claimed for the wage earner. How erroneous this is appears from what we have written above concerning capital and labor (68). 

 

By this statement, Pius XI condemned the efforts of socialists to deny property owners any return on their investment in the capital of their enterprises. But this condemnation also removed from libertarians an avenue by which they might reduce the value of workers to subsist solely in what they could produce.
In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II applauded efforts to guard against the danger of seeing labor as a mere commodity, and so continued the critique of a purely market-oriented theory of wages begun by Leo XIII. The advocates of the market theory of wages also held that, since labor was a commodity whose price is arrived at in the give-and-take of negotiation, any wage contract mutually agreed upon by employer and employee was legitimate. Under this theory, Leo XIII explained, injustice was only possible if the employer actually refused to pay all or part of the agreed-upon wage, or if the worker refused to work.
But the Church recognizes that often employer and employee are not equal negotiating partners. The Church has consistently recognized and supported the right of workers to organize so as to negotiate on equal footing with employers (RN 36–38). Historically, employers have frequently had an advantage over workers and could force employees to accept unfavorable terms. Leo XIII accused employers who acted in such a manner of inflicting “force and injustice” upon workers. However, the Church has also observed the extremes to which unions have sometimes gone, at times paralyzing industries and even whole countries, all but dictating terms. Pope Paul VI, in Octagesima Adveniens, chided unions for giving in to the “temptation . . . of profiting from a position of force to impose, particularly by strikes . . . conditions which are too burdensome for the overall economy” (14). As in all other things, the determination of wages must be done with a view to the common good. Pope John XXIII taught in Mater et Magistra that the criteria for a just wage must take into account not only the good of the worker but also “the financial state of the company for which he works,” thus including the good of the employer as well (71).

The Family Wage

Since
Rerum Novarum, the Church has fervently held that the basis of determining a just wage should be the concept of the “family wage.” The family wage is one sufficient for a working man to support himself, his wife, and his children. While the Church acknowledges that all members of the family have a contribution to make to the well-being of the family, she nonetheless insists that the norm of stable family life is founded upon there being one principal breadwinner for the family, the father; as Pius XI wrote: “Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately” (QA 71). John Paul II also advocated the family wage, seeing it as a protection against treating human beings themselves as a commodity, to be evaluated solely on the basis of their productive potential.
Perhaps the single greatest difference between the outlook of most modern economic thought, whether conservative or progressive, and the Church in matters of social justice is in the understanding of what constitutes the basic economic unit of society. Modern economic thinking tends to see the individual as the basic economic unit: Wages are accounted to people as individuals, on the basis of their productivity, without regard to “external” factors such as their families. Indeed, such an approach has been enshrined in many states’ employment laws. If an employer, having two employees doing the same job, were to pay one employee more than another on the basis that the first had a large family and the second was single, that employer might find himself in trouble with the authorities. But the Church recognizes that human beings are essentially social in their nature: Humanity is not a collection of individuals in autonomous isolation from one another, but a society, which has the family as its fundamental building block (CCC 1879–1882). Thus, John Paul II wrote, any concept of wages that does not take the family into account is “purely pragmatic and inspired by a thoroughgoing individualism” and “is severely censured” by the Church (CA 8).

Is a Minimum Wage the Solution?

The effect of Catholic social teaching, the growing awareness of a need to protect workers against exploitation, and the rise of the social gospel movement among Protestants in the 1920s all contributed to the adoption of minimum wage laws. While many welcomed these laws as part of the effort to protect and lift up the condition of workers, there were nonetheless many Catholic scholars and bishops who were skeptical of or even opposed to such measures. The first minimum wage law in the United States was enacted in 1938, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Since then, the minimum wage has risen from the initial $0.25 per hour to $6.55 per hour.
Does the minimum wage in the United States fulfill the Church’s prescription for a “family wage,” that is, a wage sufficient for a father to support a family decently by himself? If we take the U.S. statistics regarding the “poverty line” for a family of four as our baseline for what might be considered a family wage, the answer is no: It does not accomplish that now, nor has it ever. According to wage and poverty statistics, the minimum wage has never risen to, much less above, the poverty line. In real dollars (adjusted for inflation and purchasing power), the highest the minimum wage has ever been was in 1968, when it was 90 percent of the poverty-line wage. Currently the minimum wage is approximately 57 percent of the poverty-line wage.
Should the minimum wage be sufficient to raise a family above the poverty line? The question may be better rephrased in this way: Are minimum wage laws the most appropriate way of fulfilling the Church’s call for a just family wage? This question takes us from the articulation of principles to issues of application of those principles. In short, it leads us to the area of prudential judgments, and the Church generally refrains from advocating specific solutions to problems that lie in this arena.
The Church herself recognizes that the power of the state and its laws is not always the best mechanism for bringing about desirable ends. Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica, “Human law cannot prohibit everything that is contrary to virtue” (II-II, q. 77, a. 1). By extension, then, it follows that the state cannot, by law, mandate all things virtuous. And so the Church, in advocating the establishment of just wages, acknowledges that “primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the State but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society” (CA 48).
This recognition of the limited ability of laws to bring about desirable ends is echoed by economists, who have been critical of the effects of minimum and family wage laws. One criticism is that they treat all workers as though they were heads of families, which is clearly not the case. As legitimate as the demand is for a family wage for the heads of households, a 19-year-old single man just starting his career in the work force does not have a moral claim to such. A second criticism of the minimum wage, say economists, is that it treats workers as though they were in a static condition regarding their wages. Minimum wage laws, and the family wage concept, they say, assume that workers join the work force at a certain level of skill and wages and remain there, necessitating a relatively high family wage from the outset. But, they point out, in a modern economy workers frequently change jobs and regularly advance in their careers, and as they acquire skills and experience they naturally command higher wages. Minimum wage laws and the family wage concept, they say, ignore this reality.
These criticisms bear not on the validity of the family wage theory itself, but on its application. Recognizing that workers in industrialized societies, when they start their careers, usually are not married with families, it is legitimate to modify the criterion for the just wage to account for this reality. Furthermore, since these same workers, possessing relatively few skills at the beginnings of their careers, will almost as a matter of course increase their wages as they gain skills, it would also seem appropriate to adjust the standard for a just wage in recognition of this reality. Thus, it seems reasonable to make some provision for “entry-level” wages in setting the standard for a just wage, and therefore a minimum wage. One can conclude on this basis that it is not necessary for the minimum wage set by the state to be equivalent to the family wage.
Another criticism of minimum wage laws falls under the evaluation of their unintended consequences. Economists point out that the economy is like an organism in a state of equilibrium. If you alter the conditions in one part of the organism, it will have effects in other parts. Because of the complexity of the organism, the nature and severity of those effects are frequently unpredictable. Minimum wage laws, they charge, distort the market forces that govern wages and have the unintended consequence of increasing unemployment. The problem, as Henry Hazlitt described in Economics in One Lesson, is this:
The first thing that happens . . . when a law is passed that no one shall be paid less than $106 for a forty-hour week is that no one who is not worth $106 a week to an employer will be employed at all. You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering. In brief, for a low wage you substitute unemployment.
The problem is that there are some people whose skills and abilities are such that they cannot produce enough to be “worth” the minimum wage. While one might rail against quantifying a worker in this way, the fact is that an employer has no incentive to hire such a person. He may decide to do so out of a spirit of generosity, but generosity cannot be compelled, and a businessman cannot afford to be unlimited in his generosity. Thus the prescriptions of morality and the good intentions of lawmakers run up against economic reality.
This is a serious problem, as the Church also teaches that the worker has an obligation to work to support himself and his family (RN 10). Where a duty exists, anything that detracts from the capacity to carry out that duty should be eliminated. John Paul II further developed this teaching in Laborem Exercens, saying that by work man fulfills God’s charge to exercise dominion over the earth, and therefore work is an expression of human dignity. Because of the important place of work in the expression of human identity, John Paul II asserts that people have a right to participate in the economic life of their communities (LE 18–19).

Handle with Caution

There is a tension, then, between the necessity of providing just wages and the need to allow the fullest access to employment possible. Minimum wage laws can be seen as promoting the first objective but hindering the second. The prudent legislator must try to find a course that will not create evils worse than those he seeks to eliminate, and most would agree that being unemployed with no income is worse than being employed for a sub-optimal income. However, the effect of a minimum wage is largely dependent on where it is set. Fortunately, in the United States, the minimum wage is low enough, in comparison to prevailing wages in most localities (which are largely the result of market forces), that in all likelihood it is not now a significant source of unemployment. For example, in my own community, entry-level jobs in the fast-food industry, which are generally considered low-skill, pay between $8 and $9 per hour, more than 50 percent higher than the minimum wage. Where the prevailing wage is so much higher than the legal minimum, the minimum wage will serve mainly to prevent gross exploitation of workers.
But because of the potential for creating unemployment, extreme care must be exercised in evaluating the occasional calls for increasing the minimum wage. The current state of near-full employment in the United States and the relatively wide gap between the minimum and the prevailing wage may not be a coincidence. For this reason, it can be highly imprudent to advocate raising the minimum wage, as the USCCB did in its 1986 pastoral letter Economic Justice for All, and as it has in the recent “Action Memo” cited previously. A balance must be struck between the good of promoting access to employment and that of promoting a just wage, and the reality must be acknowledged that the goal of the family wage will not be achieved by legislation.
The focus of Church teaching has been to proclaim the rights of workers to just wages, and to vigorously assert, in the face of reductionist trends, that workers cannot be treated simply according to their value as economic producers. These trends in Catholic social thought have coalesced into the concept of the family wage, which is the basis of evaluating the justness of wages in society. But representations of Church teaching that suggest it necessarily mandates an increase of the minimum wage — at this or any other time — are at best oversimplifications and at worst misrepresentations of a complex moral question, in which prudential considerations weigh as heavily as theological principles.
The goal of Catholic social teaching is a just, family wage for every head of household. But the Church recognizes that the family wage will not be achieved by the blunt instrument of legislation, applied without reference to economic realities. Rather, as John Paul II taught, it will be attained by making sure that education and training are made available to the widest number of persons so that they can command the wages that will enable them to live becomingly, as Aquinas said, in dignity and comfort.
This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Crisis Magazine.

Fr. Robert Johansen

By

Fr. Robert Johansen is a priest of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned an M.A. in Classics from Catholic University of America and completed studies for the Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Liturgical Institute.

  • 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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  • Tom

    The Church doesn’t even pay it’s own teachers pay equal to what minimum wage advocates demand. Teachers in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Ft. Wayne make about $12/hr. That includes one friend of mine who has 4 children and a blind wife. Before you preach to the World your poor socialist Dogma, clean your own house.

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