Friday, October 04, 2002


Josh Claybourn--whose blog I highly recommend (and I've added a permalink to)--has posted some of his favorite contradictions today. Most of them are right on. But not all of them...

One of Josh's contradictions: "It's just smart economics to have individual U.S. states freely trade with one another. But the same logic doesn't apply to individual nations."

I guess this could be a contradiction, depending on your definition of "smart economics". For me, a "smart economics" is (among other things) a "humane economics", i.e. one that respects human dignity. Here in the U.S., we have labor laws that protect the worker from exploitation, and so it is "smart economics" (in my sense) to have free trade among US states. But if there is not similar respect for human beings in other nations, then it wouldn't be "smart economics" to trade with them.

I'm all for free trade, as long as all trading partners ensure that their workers are treated with at least a modicum of dignity & respect, in an absolute sense, not a relative one. For example, if under the "old system" a given worker made one dollar a month, the new, free system isn't respective of the worker's dignity & rights if it doubles his prior wage and gives him two dollars a month. Yes, it's better then before, twice as much so. But it's still unjust.

I find the following paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church particularly helpful:

2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.

2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants. For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment.

2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. "Remuneration 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, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good." Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.

Am I off my rocker? (If yes, why?)

No comments: