In today’s culture of entitlement people believe that they deserve certain rewards simply because they exist — not because of hard work, perseverance and wise choices. Entitlement is the only way to explain the lunacy behind recent demands that fast food chains like McDonald’s arbitrarily pay workers $15 per hour. Unlike many politicians, business leaders do not make decisions according to public opinion because they have fiduciary responsibilities to their boards and shareholders. As a result, McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson is doing the right thing by not cowing to ridiculous wage demands. In short, McDonald’s has become a scapegoat for a series of failed economic and public policies.
Focusing on the universal to the neglect of the particular is a collectivist error, says Dylan Pahman in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.
Justice, classically defined, is to render to each what is due. A just wage, then, is that wage which remunerates a worker with proper regard to his or her particular contribution, need, and other circumstances. The focus on a living wage reduces this criterion to need alone and furthermore presumes that the need of each worker is the same. But is this actually the case? No, it isn’t.
A new study focusing on the demographic effects of abortion in the United States brings to light what one scientist calls truly astounding findings. The demographic changes will even affect America’s economy. “There is no such thing as economic growth going hand-in-hand with declining human capital,” says Elise Hilton in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.
The United States is facing a very difficult economic, educational, and sociopolitical outlook. We will have fewer workers, fewer small businesses and more dying small towns. There will be fewer teachers, fewer students, and more closed schools. We’ll have smaller families and more children not knowing what it means to have siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. A smaller population is not a good thing; it means the loss of many cherished American ideals. Our way of life is at stake. That is not a dramatic over-statement; it is a simple fact.
When it comes to environmental science, we can’t avoid tough science and policy questions by simply arguing from Scripture or Tradition, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.
Yes theology and science “have different points of departure and different goals, tasks and methodologies” but they “can come in touch and overlap.” For this convergence to be fruitful we must resist “the temptation to view science as a realm completely independent of moral principles.” Science can, and often does, serve as “a natural instrument for building life on earth” (Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, XIV.1). However when we limit ourselves merely to the findings of the natural, social and human sciences, we risk confusing expediency with prudence and diluting the Church’s witness.
“Has the War on Drugs revived the 19th Century progressive crusade against ‘degenerates’?” asks Anthony Bradley in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.
The United States currently has over 2.3 million prisoners incarcerated in federal, state, and local jails around the country. According to an April report by the Sentencing Project, that number presents a 500 percent increase in incarcerations over the past 40 years. This increase produces “prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system” despite the evidence that incarceration is not working. How did this happen? The culprit is usually identified as the failed policies associated with the War on Drugs. Because blacks are disproportionately swept up in the campaign against drugs, some scholars refer to the results of mass incarceration as the new “The New Jim Crow.” While the original intentions may have been well-meaning the long-term consequences may be worse: The War on Drugs may actually be class-based eugenics by another name.
“We have replaced charity with humanitarianism, says Michael Matheson Miller in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary, “a hollowed-out secular and materialist vision of Christian love.”
Concern for the poor is at the heart of Christianity. Saint John Paul II called poverty one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, and to ignore the plight of the poor has consequences for our eternal souls.
Pope Francis addressed poverty in Evangelii Gaudium: “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (#54).
When does inequality become unjust? In this week’s Acton Commentary, Jordan Ballor considers that question in the context of Pope Francis’s teachings and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy:
Earlier this week, Pope Francis logged onto his @Pontifex Twitter account to declare that “inequality is the root of social evil.” This was of a piece with his November apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” in which he asserted that “inequality is the root of social ills.” Within the deeper context of his exhortation, it is evident that Francis is not advocating for equality in an absolute sense. He is, rather, discussing the kind of unjust inequality that results from structural evil. In this way, observes Francis, injustice carries within it the seeds of social unrest. This is as true for unjust inequality as it is for unjust equality. For as the formal principle of justice teaches, there is no greater injustice than to treat unequal things equally and equal things unequally. Or as Aristotle put it following Plato, we must “treat like cases as like.”
Beware of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice, says Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss in this week’s Acton Commentary:
It is important to clarify the Church’s teaching on asceticism because many voices in the environmental movement encourage a kind of ascetical lifestyle in the name of “ethical consumption.” Orthodox writers on the environment are not immune to the temptation of putting the ascetical tradition of the Church in the service of another agenda. For example, the conclusion of the Inter-Orthodox Conference on Environmental Protection, held in Crete in 1991, states: “Humanity needs a simpler way of life, a renewed asceticism, for the sake of creation.”
With more than a dozen smiling women looking over his shoulder in the East Room of the White House, President Obama signed a proclamation in support of National Equal Pay Day on April 8. The president said he was working to prevent workplace discrimination and helping workers take control over negotiations regarding their pay.
“My Administration remains devoted to improving our equal pay laws and closing the pay gap between women and men,” Obama said in the proclamation. “From signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to establishing the Equal Pay Task Force, I have strengthened pay discrimination protections and cracked down on violations of equal pay laws.”
Many who reject capitalism in favor of some “third way” do so because they often mistake it for government-corporate cronyism, says Jonathan Witt in this week’s Acton Commentary. But in countries that have begun extending true economic freedom to the masses, capitalist activity has already lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.
Happily, a new piece in The Economist magazine offers some helpful medicine for the confusion, insisting on the distinction between cronyism and capitalism while also pointing to some hopeful signs that a rising middle class around the globe is gaining the clout to fight the power structures that still wall millions out of the wealth creation game. My reservation about the article is that it misreads America’s Progressive era, and in the process, leaves cronyism’s favorite trick unexposed.
According to the piece, crony capitalism in America “reached its apogee in the late 19th century, and a long and partially successful struggle against robber barons ensued. Antitrust rules broke monopolies such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. The flow of bribes to senators shrank.” Later, it tells readers that while developing countries are making progress against cronyism, “governments need to be more assiduous in regulating monopolies.”