Category: Economics

fireOf all the disheartening scenes of unrest coming out of Baltimore this week, few have been as dispiriting as the image of a church project that was set ablaze.

For the past eight years the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore has been working on a project that would provide a community center and low-income housing in the form of 60 senior-citizen apartments. The construction was expected to be completed in December. And last night it all burned to the ground.

Those associated with the project have remained optimistic. Kevin Bell, senior vice president of The Woda Group, vowed to rebuild and said, “This does not make us go away.” And Rev. Donte Hickman, the pastor of the church, says, “This fire is going to spark a revival.”

We should pray the project will soon be back on track and that the community as a whole will heal quickly. But we should also be aware of the long term impact that riots have on a city.

In 2004, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published two papers that examined the effect of the riots in the 1960s and early 1970s. From 1964 to 1971, as many as 700 riots erupted in cities across America. The large numbers of injuries, deaths, property damage that occurred in predominantly black neighborhoods caused considerable short-term damage on the communities. But the impact over the long run (from 1960 to 1980) was even more severe. According to the NBER,

woman-waitressDo you remember trying to find that first job? You’d be told you needed experience by an would-be employer, but no one would hire you so you could get the experience. Finally, a burger joint or a summer ice cream shop or a retailer would give you a chance, usually beginning at minimum wage.

At AEI, Mark J. Perry looks at the world of the minimum wage worker. Here are a few facts:

  • While teens are the ones who typically earn minimum wage, they don’t stay there for long. In 2014, 85 percent of working teens earned above minimum wage.
  • If a worker does not have a high school diploma, the chances that he/she will earn minimum wage are higher. The more educated a person is, the more he/she will earn.
  • Being married typically means a person will earn more.
  • Part-time workers are much more likely to earn minimum wage than full-time employees.


In an enthusiastic reaction to his first job offer, Ben Sunderman, a 19-year-old with Down syndrome, has spread lots of smiles across the internet. In doing so, he reminds us of the power of work to bring joy to human lives, and of the gift-giving capacity God has given to each of us, including those we often dismiss as “disabled.”

Caught on video by his mother, Sunderman literally jumps for joy after reading about his acceptance to an internship at Embassy Suites. “I did it!” he yells. “I got a job!”

Watch the full video:

For the broader story, see the following interview with his family: (more…)

80s fashionI grew up in a very small town. Our fashion purchases were limited to the dry goods store (yes, it still went by that name) which carried things like Buster Brown shoes and sensible sweaters, or the grain elevator, where you could buy durable overalls for farm work.

As someone who eagerly awaited Seventeen magazine every month and witnessed the birth of MTV, you can imagine my fashion dilemma. The closest mall was 70 miles away. I needed Calvin Klein jeans, Candies heels and Esprit tops like, now.

Steven Quartz, a philosopher and neuroscientist at Caltech, along with Anette Asp, a political scientist and neuromarketer, feel for me. In The Atlantic, Bourree Lam talked with the two about the connection between “cool” and capitalism. Quartz and Asp, believe, in as sense, that capitalism created “cool.” First, though, Quartz says there are four myths linked to capitalism (or what some would call “consumerism”) that their research shows to be false:

First, that it doesn’t make us happy. Second, that it relies on instilling false needs in us because it’s contrary to our real nature. Third, that it erodes public life.  Fourth, that it’s primarily about “stuff.”


Dorothy Sayers“If we put our neighbor first, we are putting man above God, and that is what we have been doing ever since we began to worship humanity and make man the measure of all things. Whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm center of trouble – and that is precisely the catch about serving the community.” –Dorothy Sayers

In orienting our perspective on work and stewardship, one of the best starting points is Lester DeKoster’s view about work being service to neighbor and thus to God. And yet, even here, we ought to be attentive about the order of things, keeping in mind Samuel’s reminder that “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

It may seem overly picky, but it may be more accurate to say that our work is service to God, and thus to neighbor. For without obedience to God, service to neighbor will be severely limited at best, and wholly destructive at worst.

I was reminded of this when reading Dorothy Sayers’ popular essay, “Why Work?”, which she concludes by offering a strong warning against various calls to “serve the community” — a challenge she describes as “the most revolutionary of them all.”

“The only way to serve the community is to forget the community and serve the work,” she writes, meaning that only when we work for the glory of God can we hope for the flourishing of our neighbors (and selves). “The danger of ‘serving the community’ is that one is part of the community, and that in serving it one may only be serving a kind of communal egotism,” she continues. (more…)

raise-minimum-wagejpg“I’m tired all the time.” That’s the lament of one of the working mothers in the video below (from The Guardian), as she describes her life working minimum wage jobs. She and the other women featured are all fighting for an increase in pay to $15 per hour (like Seattle’s recent mandate.)

I feel for them. I can’t imagine trying to raise a family on minimum wage salaries. But I have several issues with what I see in this video. (more…)

gravity-incomeWhen the city of Seattle recently voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some critics (like me) snarked that if $15 would help workers why not raise it to $20, $25, or even $30 an hour.

Apparently, one CEO in Seattle didn’t realize we were joking. Dan Price of Gravity Payments recently announced that every one of his 120 employees would soon be making a minimum of $70,000 a year—a minimum wage of $33.65 an hour.

The media reaction to the story has been about as fawning and uncritical as you would expect. While Price is rightfully being praised for his generosity (he’s cutting his own pay from $1 million to $70,000 a year to fund the pay increase), few people have—so far—pointed out how his largess may soon put his employees out of a job. Here’s why.