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Pursuing Economic “Fairness” Without Understanding Economics ^ | January 19, 2014 | Austin Hill

Posted on 01/20/2014 10:47:21 AM PST by Kaslin

“I just want what is fair for everybody…”

If I’ve heard that line once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times on those occasions when I end up discussing business, economic, and public policy issues with members of the clergy. With the uptick in minimum wage worker strikes over the past few months (we saw another “round” of them at Wal-Mart stores this past week), I’ve had these conversations quite frequently.

What is striking to me is that the starting point for many of these Pastors, Priests and Rabbi’s is to say that they are standing up for “workers’ rights.” But often when I ask them the most basic questions about business and economic matters – “why do some jobs pay better than others?” “What wages and salaries are fair for business owners?” “How are jobs created?” – the answer I get is “I don’t know much about economics…I just want what is fair..”

Karl Marx would certainly appreciate this stance on labor relations – it presumes the absolute best about workers, and the absolute worst about business owners, no matter how virtuously or how poorly either party behaves. But Marxism aside, there are several good reasons why the faith leaders’ stance on labor and work is severely misguided.

It ignores a major player in the labor market - The protests and demonstrations centered on the plight of employees who work for a minimum wage all seem to conveniently ignore another important party in the labor market – employers. Gathering people to “rage” against business owners is consistent with the teachings of Karl Marx, but is it constructive, and does it fit with the faith leaders’ professed beliefs?

Presumably many of the faith leaders crying out for “worker justice” also provide pastoral counseling services as part of their professional and ministerial duties. But would any good clergyman attempt to do marital counseling with only one spouse in the room? Probably not. And while the employer-employee relationship is not a marriage, it is nonetheless a relationship – so why are religious leaders championing the needs and interests of one party while not even considering the needs and interests of the other?

If the faith leaders involved in this activity actually cared for everybody involved in the labor dispute – and cared enough to actually listen to the local small business owners in their communities – they might actually learn why it is that some jobs are regarded as “entry level” and therefore don’t pay very well. It is sad to see clergymen, purporting to uphold the “dignity of the worker,” nonetheless acting as though business owners themselves are something less than a “worker,” and thus seeking to demonize them.

It ignores another important player in the labor market - With all the attention showered upon the restaurant and retail workers who walk off the job so they can go chant, walk a picket line, and talk to news reporters, an important fact gets lost in the milieu: an overwhelming majority of workers earning minimum wage at restaurants and big box stores are – thankfully – NOT walking off the job. On the contrary, most of them are diligently performing the tasks assigned to them in the job they agreed to accept, and are perhaps focusing their energies on advancing within their existing company or eventually finding a better job.

Coddling disgruntled workers who clock-in at their job and then walk off the work site is like an elementary school teacher focusing all attention on the few kids that are misbehaving and ignoring the students who are performing well. And no business management strategist would advise employers to focus on problem behavior while ignoring productive employees. When faith leaders bestow honor to a worker who seeks to undermine their employer, they make a mockery of the majority of workers who fulfill their responsibilities and play by the rules.

It undermines more skilled workers – As well intentioned as the faith leaders’ efforts might be as they try to exhibit empathy for low-skilled, low wage earning workers, they are slapping many skilled workers in the face. It’s as if members of the clergy have no comprehension of the struggle many Americans willingly face in order to get themselves educated, to develop new skill sets, and to remain viable in the marketplace.

The minimum wage debate strikes to the heart of this struggle. As they stand with striking fast food workers who demand a fifteen dollar an hour wage, many faith leaders appear clueless about how many other kinds of jobs in our economy require education, degrees, and certifications, yet don’t pay much more than fifteen dollars an hour.

Take “I.T.” technicians, dental assistants, teacher’s aids and medical assistants as examples. People who work in these fields usually have to take courses, pass tests, and acquire certificates and licensures in order to qualify for a job in their field, and they often spend hundreds if not thousands of their own dollars to get appropriately trained. Yet many of them earn wages in the $10 to $25 an hour range – in some cases not much more than what disgruntled fast food workers are demanding.

When faith leaders argue that workers with low skill levels are deserving of the same or nearly the same wages as workers who have sought to develop their skills, they undermine people who have disciplined themselves and have pursued the difficult task of self-development. It is saddening to see faith leaders ignore this.

It fails to address the real problem – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard about the tremendous economic success of specific regions around the U.S. Take for example, North Dakota. This little state is in the midst of a big economic boom that has produced low un-employment and wages for many low skill workers that are well over the mandated minimum wage.

That’s because the people of North Dakota have wisely chosen to utilize their natural resources – oil in particular – and to sell that resource around the world. The oil-based energy industry is creating genuinely new wealth in that state, which has in turn elevated wages in nearly every sector of the economy (even at Wal-mart!).

The problem of low wages will not be solved by merely seeking to re-distribute increasing portions of wealth out of the hands of the few and into the hands of the chosen – as the demand for a higher minimum wage does. Rather, the problem will only be addressed when Americans begin to understand the key ingredients that required in an economy that creates wealth and prosperity for all.

Will America’s faith leaders begin to learn what those ingredients are? Or will they simply continue to pursue some arbitrary understanding of “fairness” while not understanding the slightest thing about economics?

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: economics; faith; jobsandeconomy

1 posted on 01/20/2014 10:47:21 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

I was always amazed at Obummer’s admission that he spent the last two years of high school in a marijuana haze.

Most of us did at least a little studying during those years. Not him. Economics? Shmeconomics!

2 posted on 01/20/2014 10:56:16 AM PST by duckworth (Perhaps instant karma's going to get you. Perhaps not.)
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To: duckworth

We really need a fresh dose of MiltonFriedmanomics today more than ever...

as for Ø, too far gone.

3 posted on 01/20/2014 10:58:51 AM PST by C210N (When people fear government there is tyranny; when government fears people there is liberty)
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To: Kaslin

If we are going for “fair”, I want to be the guy who decides what is fair.

Because the guy who gets to decide what everyone is worth is king. He owns the economy, and he owns you.

4 posted on 01/20/2014 11:13:25 AM PST by marron
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To: Kaslin
This is a remarkably clear headed and insightful article. This is the sort of perspective that is totally lost in the mainstream media.

Of course, every comment in the article directed at the clergy applies to the Democrat Party as well.

5 posted on 01/20/2014 11:36:34 AM PST by Senator_Blutarski
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To: C210N

It would do our faith leaders well to have well rounded instruction. It seems they have only been given one side of the story and assume the worst about those they refuse to consider.

6 posted on 01/20/2014 11:40:56 AM PST by Scotswife
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To: C210N

Exactly. Many of the clowns today like Yellen are sold on Keynes and government intervention. Friedman was a free market economist whose micro theory and especially his macro theory AKA “National Income Accounting” combined with sane monetary policy was the basis for most who are free market oriented economists. Keynes and his students are about Gov intervention and printing money. This clown whose has been the FED and his replacement Yellen are Keynesian hacks.

7 posted on 01/20/2014 11:50:32 AM PST by Lumper20 ( clown in Chief has given AFGE Gov employees unpre)
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To: FReepers

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8 posted on 01/20/2014 12:01:09 PM PST by DJ MacWoW (The Fed Gov is not one ring to rule them all)
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To: Kaslin

Commodification and rent-seeking are killing off opportunity and innovation in every nook and cranny of our economy. Capital is not flowing to the next generation of American small business creators and consumers. It’s a vicious cycle that’s destroying the work ethic in this country, and gnawing away at the foundations of our economy and society in general.

These are real problems, and we’d best find some solutions fairly soon.

9 posted on 01/20/2014 12:09:35 PM PST by CowboyJay (Cruz'-ing in 2016!)
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To: C210N

Just keep in mind that Milton Friedman devised the payroll witholding scheme for the goverment. Without that people would not put up with being robbed. Sheeple see a tax refund as windfall. If everybody had to fork over their money on APriol 15, it would never happen. Thanks Milton.

10 posted on 01/20/2014 12:53:31 PM PST by all the best (`~!)
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To: Kaslin
There are two topics religious leaders should never get involved in: economics and war. Their contribution to economics should be limited to "Thou shalt not steal" and to borrow from Woodie Guthrie, with neither a gun nor a fountain pen. Their contribution to discussions of war should be limited to "Thou shalt not commit murder." Self-defense is not murder. Beyond those two Commandments, prudence is the critical issue, and nothing in ordination qualifies a religious leader to speak prudently on those topics.
11 posted on 01/20/2014 1:17:04 PM PST by JoeFromSidney (itYe)
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To: Kaslin

Higher costs = Higher prices

How does this help average households?.........

12 posted on 01/20/2014 2:38:34 PM PST by 4Liberty (Mr President 'If you Like your college transcripts...can we see them?')
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To: Kaslin
From Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 speech at the Sarbonne:
There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Let anyone who tempted to second guess the businessman first learn how to create a business plan - and then learn the critical dependence of success on things that seem small until you appreciate how things play together. Once you understand that low-wage workers generally depend on “undercapitalized” - by Hillary’s fatuous standards - businesses, and how critically those businesses depend on holding expenses down, then you have some perspective on the real issue. And you will have enough understanding that you will have sense enough and humility enough to shut your yap about things you don’t understand.

13 posted on 01/20/2014 7:43:08 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: JoeFromSidney

Their contribution to economics should be limited to “Thou shalt not steal”

I think you forgot another relevant one:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

That’s what this whole “income inequality” thing is about.

14 posted on 01/21/2014 5:38:20 AM PST by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: lepton
Yes, I did overlook it. And you're right, that one prohibits the "redistribution" that the collectivists insist upon.
15 posted on 01/21/2014 10:49:23 AM PST by JoeFromSidney (itYe)
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