Doing Justice for the Low Wage Worker

One of the many things I came to appreciate serving Greek Orthodox parishes is how much work is involved in operating a family run restaurant. Owners and their families often put in long hours doing hard manual labor for small profits and with little financial security. A similar state of affairs holds true for the other small business owners I’ve known both in my family and in the different parishes I’ve served.

It’s important to keep this all in mind when looking at not simply small businesses or “mom & pop” eateries but also at those larger corporations that typically pay low wages. Because Marxism has become a part of the cultural waters in which we swim, it easy to assume that low wages are inherently and objectively unjust. The argument here goes something like this: In paying low wages, the employer is exploiting his employees by not giving them the “true” value of their labor. It is the worker, not the owner, who is the source of the profits generated by the business.  Put another way, the worker gets nothing besides his wage and that wage falls far below the value he gives to the employer. But is this really true? Continue reading

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Corporate Culture, Corporate Conscience

The removal of “Brendan Eich, Mozilla co-founder and creator of the JavaScript programming language” should make us all very concerned. He was not pressured to leave for what he did but what he believes. Here’s the central point that Joseph Sunde makes in his post at the Mozilla’s Statement of Faith and the Altars of Conformity:

…amidst all the pooh-poohing of the baker, the florist, and the photographer — whose complaints actually are bound up in the activities at hand – those very same critics casually proceed to make people the central thing. As the statement of faith clearly concludes, it is Eich who is the aggressor, and Eich who must be removed. The peace and tranquility of the interwebs is at stake, and influential proponents of archaic institutions mustn’t be allowed to stand in its way.

This isn’t to reject out of hand the right–even the obligation–of corporation to shape their business around specific moral norms.

Business are culture-makers at the core, and thus, conscience ought to guide such activities, from the bottom to the top and back again.

At the same time, however

…one can’t help but suspect this is less about a distinct corporate conscience than it is about blind cultural conformity. But then one remembers that, in this case, conformity the conscience, and there’s not a whole lot more going on “up there” than a raw fear of that looming Idol of Egalitarianism.

The central “virtue” of conformity is loyalty, to follow orders and to think along with the group. Nothing, it seems to me, can be further from what is necessary for a dynamic and growing business. Much less is it compatible with a free people and the value of the person.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

 

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The Battle for Purity

Paul S. Loverde, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has an interesting essay on the First Things site (Let the Battle for Purity Begin). Based in part on the new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, “Bought with a Price” (available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity), Bishop Loverde writes that

The pornography epidemic is something to which all people of good will must devote more attention and talk about more openly, but first we need to understand something of the scope and character of the problem.

He goes on to say that

Those who deny that the act of viewing pornography has any negative consequences must understand just how toxic the situation has become. It may be that a man now in his forties, say, remembers being a curious adolescent, stealing glances at a magazine in a neighbor’s home or in the aisle of a convenience store. As morally problematic and harmful as that act surely is, such behavior was arguably slow to become habitual and the physiological and psychological consequences were infrequently severe. That experience is far removed from what young people face today.

He goes on the discuss briefly some of the scientific research about the effects of pornography as well as the moral and spiritual consequences that he’s seen in his own pastoral ministry. Continue reading

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Context Matters…

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For us, even now in the twenty-first century, we can still be appalled by the filthiness and suffocating pollution in the fast-growing cities of the modern economies arising in the 19th century.  But we forget to appreciate what it meant for people to escape from the wages of medieval times to incomes two or three times the medieval level, as most people in Britain, America, France, and the German lands came to enjoy in the 19th century.

Edmund Phelps (2013), Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change, p., 52.

h/t: Cafe Hayek.

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Individualist Not Collectivism

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Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Gerard Roland (2010) …. presented a model showing that while an ethic of individualism produces dynamic effects on growth, an ethic of collectivism produces only static gains.  They also found evidence that individualism significantly contributes to long-run growth.  In a subsequent paper (Gorodnichenko and Roland, 2011) they explored the effect that other factors might have on long-run growth and found that individualism was the most important and robustly significant factor of all.

David Rose (2011),The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior (links added), p. 15.
h/t: Cafe Hayek
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Not Being Nice, But Not Being Evil…

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The problem that societies must solve, if they are to enjoy the benefits of efficiently organizing economic activity in large groups, is not getting people to care more about each other, or getting them to do nice things for one another.  The problem that societies must solve is combatting their willingness to take advantage of each other, to behave opportunistically.

David Rose (2011), The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior, p. 79.

h/t: Cafe Hayek.

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Francis’s Radical Realism: Performance v. Ideology

Sam Rocha writing at Ethika Politika makes an interesting point about Pope Francis as the first “American” pope. While Rocha’s argument is not above criticism, I think his central point–that as

…since the pragmatism of William James (and the pragmaticism of C.S. Pierce), there has been a distinct sense of concreteness to the original philosophical ideas produced on this continent. Yet, in a more direct way, the geopolitical situation in Latin America over the past hundred years has produced a sense of the concrete that is more than purely philosophical in nature. The comparative political history of modernity in Europe and the Americas makes this very clear. Whereas the European story is driven by an intellectual progression of ideas (e.g., rationalism, empiricism, idealism, and so on), the Latin American version is a postcolonial response to political situations.

He goes on to argue, as he says in the concluding paragraphs, that the real importance of Pope Francis for the Catholic Church (and indeed the Christian community in general and the wider culture is his “radical realism. What Rocha means by this is the tendency of Francis

…to treat the Word as an incarnate thing, as a reality to be shown more than it is said, to let its proclamation live in the performance of its witness, to be captured in pictures of tenderness, embrace, ordinary living. A kiss. Acts such as these are immune to the ideological trap of Western ideas that has turned so much of the reality of the Gospel into intellectual history, moral theology, and dogmatic ideals. A real Gospel cannot be a philosophy or even a philosophical theology. A philosophical Catholicism is what Francis seems to be avoiding, and for good reason.

This kind of “radical realism,” incarnated especially in ascetical struggle and liturgical worship, is the reason for the surprising success of Eastern Orthodox among not only American Evangelical Protestants but also the unchurched. What Pope Francis brings to the conversation about–or maybe better, the practice of– radical Christian realism is a spontaneous and warm openness to, well, everybody. While this hospitality (xenophilia) is not uncommon among Orthodox Christians, it is too often obscured by the heaviness with which we approach our theological tradition and our ethical cultures (including American). Continue reading

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