Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Daniel Come To Judgement! Yea, A Daniel!

A blog post from a guest blogger at Glenn Greenwald's argues that Catholic teaching does not support some stances in opposition to an increase in the minimum wage in the United States. Catholic teaching on economic matters predates the establishment of capitalism. I happen to have recently read a claim by Alessandro Roncaglia that Pribram (1983) is a good scholarly work on medieval economics.

While I'm bringing attention to Catholic teaching on economics, I might as well mention some other texts. I don't claim to be authoritative on Catholic theology. These are just some texts I am aware of the existence of. Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI both issued encyclicals on the social question. I provide some quotes from a second Vatican Council document:
"...the picture is not without its disturbing elements. Many people, especially in economically advanced areas, seem to be dominated by economics; almost all of their personal and social lives are premeated with a kind of economic mentality, and this is true of nations that favor a collective economy as well as other nations. At the very time when economic progress (provided it is directed and organized in a reasonable and human way) could do so much to reduce social inequalities, it serves all too often to aggravate them; in some places it even leads to a decline in the position of the underprivileged and contempt for the poor. In the midst of vast numbers of people deprived of the absolute necessaries of life there are some who live in luxury and squander their wealth, and this happens in less developed areas as well. Luxury and misery exist side by side. While a few individuals enjoy an almost unlimited opportunity to choose for themselves, the vast majority have no chance whatever of exercising personal initiative and responsibility, and quite often they have to live and work in conditions unworthy of human beings...

...Justice and equity also demand that the livelihood of individuals and their families should not become insecure and precarious through a kind of mobility which is a necessary feature of developing economies. All kinds of discrimination in wages and working conditions should be avoided in regard to workers who come from other countries or areas and contribute by their work to the economic development of a people or a region. Furthermore, no one, especially public authorities, should treat them simply as mere tools of production rather than as persons; they should facilitate matters so that they may have their families with them and be able to acquire decent housing conditions, and they should endeavor to integrate them into the social life of the country or area to which they have come. However, employment should be found for them in their own countries whenever possible...

...we believe by faith that, through the homage of work offered to God, man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ whose labor with his hands at Nazareth greatly ennobled the dignity of work. This is the source of every man's duty to work faithfully, as well as the basis of his right to work; moreover, it is the duty of society, according to the prevailing circumstances, to see to it that all citizens have the opportunity of finding employment. Finally, renumeration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level to correspond to the role and the productivity of each, the relevant economic factors in his employment, and the common good.

Since economic activity is, for the most part, the fruit of the collaboration of many men, it is unjust and inhuman to organize and direct it in such a way that some workers are exploited. But it frequently happens, even today, that workers are almost enslaved by the work they do. Under no circumstances can this fact be justified by so-called laws of economics. Therefore, the entire process of productive work must be adapted to the needs of the human person and to his way of life, with special attention to domestic life and mothers of families in particular, always taking sex and age into account. Workers should have the opportunity to develop their talents and their personality through the performance of their work. While devoting their time and energy to the performance of their work with a due sense of responsibility, they should also be allowed sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their family, cultural, social and religious life. In addition, they should be given the opportunity to develop those energies and talents to which their professional work may perhaps give little scope...

...Among the fundamental rights of the individual must be numbered the right of workers to form themselves into associations which truly represent them and are able to cooperate in organizing economic life properly. Included is the right to freely take part in the activities of such associations without fear of reprisal..." - Paul VI (1965)
More parochially, Catholics in the United States can look to a U. S. Bishops' pastoral letter of two decades ago.
  • Leo XIII (1891). Rerum Novarum
  • Paul VI (1965). De Ecclesia in Mundo Huius Temporis
  • Pius XI (1931). Quadragesimo Anno
  • Pribram, K. (1983). A History of Economic Reasoning, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press
  • United States Catholic Conference (1986). Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy

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