While the interviewer in this clip can be a little annoying, he also has a point. Speaker Pelosi says everyone who works should be paid the minimum wage, yet many of the people who work for her don’t make the minimum wage. The fact that we choose to label one “employment” and the other “an internship” would not seem to make much difference from a moral point of view. If it did, then as the interviewer rightly notes, businesses could simply evade minimum wage laws by classifying their employees as interns. On the face of it, then, Speaker Pelosi’s stance here would seem to just be another example of a trend I’ve noted previously, namely that many advocates of the minimum wage think an exception ought to be made in their own case. Continue reading →
Over at Mirror of Justice, Vox Nova alum Rick Garnett takes note of a simmering conflict over whether to unionize Scranton’s Catholic schools:
More than 200 supporters, many from regional union locals, joined a noon rally outside Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino’s residence to mark the one-year anniversary of the fight to unionize local Catholic school teachers. Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers President Michael Milz handed out green and black arm bands.
“Black is the color of mourning, and without a doubt we are here for that sorrowful purpose,” Milz said, repeating the claim that Martino rejected more than a century of Catholic Church support for organized labor when he rejected the request to unionize.
More. Bishop Martino is hardly alone here. Religious organizations (including Catholic schools) are exempt from many labor laws (including the minimum wage and overtime) and many Dioceses have long resisted efforts to unionize Catholic schools. Continue reading →
Radical Catholic Mom’s response to my post on sweatshops put me in mind of an old quote by Edmund Burke:
What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor of metaphysics.
It is all well and good to tell people they have a right to eat more than one meal a day, or to live in better housing, or to receive higher wages, an education, clean water, and so forth. Simply declaring that people have a right to such things, however, accomplishes very little. You can’t eat a right. You can’t sleep in it, drink it, wear it, or use it to protect you from the elements. Having the right to eat more than one meal a day is not the same as being able to eat more than one meal a day, and it is a fallacy to assume that declaring that people have a right to something will bring them into possession of that thing. Calling something a human right, a natural right, a fundamental or basic right will not change this, nor will writing the word ‘right’ using all caps. Continue reading →
Ford Motor Co. will tell Congress that it plans to return to a pretax profit or break even in 2011 when its CEO appears before two legislative committees this week.
Also, CEO Alan Mulally said he’ll work for $1 per year if the automaker has to take any government loan money.
More. This, of course, is part of a plan by American owned automakers to make a government bailout of their companies more palatable.
Supposing that this deal goes through, and Mulally takes the $1 a year salary. Is this unjust? A wage of $1 a year is much lower than what is typically taken to be a just wage among socially minded Catholics. And while there is no doubt that Mulally would be accepting the salary voluntarily, the fact that a wage contract is freely agreed to by all the parties involved is insufficient to guarantee its justice. Continue reading →
And a positive one at that. Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote a letter to Marcello Pera, the former President of the Italian Senate, regarding his book Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians. The letter summarizes (with approval) the book’s contents:
With a stupendous knowledge of the sources and a cogent logic, you analyze the essence of liberalism beginning with its foundations, demonstrating its roots in the Christian image of God that belongs to the essence of liberalism: the relationship with God of which man is the image, and from which we have received the gift of liberty. With incontestable logic, you show that liberalism loses its basis and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation.
No less impressive are your analyses of liberty and of ‘multi-culturalism,’ in which you illustrate the self-contradictory nature of this concept and hence its political and cultural impossibility. Of fundamental importance is your analysis of what Europe can be, and of a European constitution in which Europe does not transform itself into a cosmopolitan reality, but rather finds its identity in its Christian-liberal foundation. Continue reading →
I realize that some of my co-bloggers at Vox Nova don’t much like the Acton Institute. Which is unfortunate – in my opinion, because while not everything available through Acton is worth reading, they do put out a lot of good stuff. For example, this article by Andrew Yuengert, entitled The Stranger who Sojourns with You: Toward a Moral Immigration Policy, does an excellent job, in this man’s opinion, both of summarizing Catholic Social Teaching with regards to immigration, and of applying the findings of modern economics to the issue.
Yuengert’s analysis begins, as any Catholic analysis must, with the right to migrate:
Catholic social teaching brings a word to the policy conversation that is seldom heard. This word, which the popes speak quietly but insistently, is rights. The Catholic social tradition consistently asserts a very broad right to migrate; this perspective immediately transforms the debate. More precisely, rights-language reverses the perspective from which the issues are currently addressed. Immigration policy is evaluated from the point of view of the immigrant, not from the point of view of the host country.
The right to migrate grows out of the right of workers to provide support and sustenance for themselves and their families, as well as the right to economic initiative, both of which are themselves firmly established in Catholic Social Thought. Continue reading →
Last Friday’s post on minimum wage laws drew a fair amount of criticism. Which is not surprising. To many people, saying that one opposes a minimum wage law is something akin to saying you support legalized slavery. The idea that such laws might actually hurt the very people they are designed to help is not one that normally occurs to most people, and it’s understandable that many folks would greet the idea, when they do encounter it, with a skepticism bordering on outright hostility.
In any event, there was one objection raised to my post I believe warrants further comment, namely that it is somehow improper, unideal, inconsistent with Catholic Social Thought, or otherwise wrong to think of labor as a commodity.
I confess that I do not quite understand the nature of the objection. A thing is a commodity, generally speaking, to the extent that it can be bought or sold on the open market. Is the buying and selling of one’s labor somehow contrary to Catholic Social Thought? Certainly not. As Pope Pius XI stated in Quadragesimo Anno, “those who declare that a contract of hiring and being hired is unjust of its own nature, and hence a partnership-contract must take its place, are certainly in error and gravely misrepresent Our Predecessor whose Encyclical not only accepts working for wages or salaries but deals at some length with it regulation in accordance with the rules of justice.” QA 64. Indeed, the whole notion of the just wage, which is central to Catholic Social Thought, only makes sense on the assumption that labor is a commodity that can be properly exchanged for a set wage. Likewise, minimum wage laws do not prevent labor from being treated as a commodity, but rather presuppose that it is to be treated as such. Continue reading →
Talk about rights is common both in American political discourse and in Catholic Social Thought. Certainly rights place a central role in the American Constitutional order. For many it is the Bill of Rights, which its protections of the rights of speech, religious exercise, due process, and so on, that is the defining characteristic of our government, to the point that other considerations (e.g. federalism) are also expressed in terms of rights (e.g. states’ rights). Likewise, rights have played a fundamental role in our moral discourse from the time of the Declaration of Independence down to the present day (for a full treatment of the place of rights in American political and moral discussion, I would highly recommend Rights Talk by Harvard professor and current U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon).
The Church’s embrace of rights talk is more recent but has become no less widespread. Pick up a Church document or statement relating to Catholic Social Thought and you are likely to encounter a whole bevy of rights: the right to property, the right to associate, the right to health care, decent housing, and a just wage.
Yet despite the common vocabulary, I would argue that the concept of rights use in Catholic Social Thought is quite different from the concept of rights current in much of American political thinking. Continue reading →
A few years back I attended the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society in Krakow, Poland. The purpose of the Seminar was (and is) to bring together American and Eastern European students to reflect on how to build and maintain the free society. While the Seminar focused mainly on Catholic Social Thought, and in particular on Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus, we also looked at some portions of the Federalist Papers and Democracy in America for historical perspective.
Looking over my preparatory notes on these readings recently, I was struck by the differences between Madison and Tocqueville on the value of citizens organizing themselves together for some common political or social purpose (what Madison called “factions” and Tocqueville called “associations”).Madison’s view of factions was decidedly negative. Not only were they self-interested, but it was “sown in the nature of man” that different factions would have interests “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Factions could arise out of a “zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points,” as well as from attachment to particular personalities. However, one of the chief causes of faction, Madison thought, had to do with what would later be called the conflict between labor and capital, as well as between different sectors of the economy:
Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views.
The danger of factions, for Madison, was the risk that a single faction might at least temporarily be able to capture the machinery of the state, and thereby direct it to its own benefit and not to the common good. To avoid this possibility, he sought to design a system of government that would pit various factions against each other, thus neutralizing their overall negative effect. Divided and representative government, hemmed in by checks and balances, would make it difficult for an individual faction to ever seize total control of the state. Continue reading →
Blackadder is a man of mystery, but in his spare time he blogs. He would sometimes describe himself as conservative, sometimes as libertarian, though both terms have a lot of baggage associated with them (for the record: no, he doesn’t want to nuke Mecca, and yes, he does have a job). It also doesn’t help that he changes his mind a lot.
April 2017 S M T W T F S « May 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
- Animal Rights
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