Blog author: jballor
Monday, January 6, 2014
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The following is a letter written in response to a post from my friend Brad Littlejohn on the topic of the minimum wage

Dear Brad,

Thank you for your thoughtful and substantive engagement on the question of the minimum wage. I don’t think the conversation we had on Twitter earlier did justice to your work here, so I’m offering this response in hopes of furthering the conversation. I hope you find it fruitful. I certainly have. I should also note that I have been assuming the context of policy proposals to increase the minimum wage at the federal level in the United States. There are certainly aspects of what we’re discussing that apply to a greater or lesser extent in other contexts and at other levels of government, but at the level of individual states, for instance, the stakes are somewhat reduced and ameliorated by the realities of federalism.

You write that you “want to reflect a bit more fully on what’s wrong with one of the common conservative arguments against the minimum wage: that the laborer is only worth his productivity.” I have significant concerns with equating someone’s worth with the economic value of their labor in the marketplace. I do not argue that the laborer is only worth his or her productive work. I argue that a worker’s work is only valuable in a market setting insofar as someone is willing to pay for it. I agree that there is a subjective element to work that is in some ways intimately identified with and inseparable from the person doing the working. But I do maintain that the worker and the work can, and indeed must, be distinguished. Perhaps what we disagree about is that you think the wage someone is offered is primarily a signal about how much that person is valued. I think that the wage someone is offered is primarily a signal about how much that person’s work is useful to others.
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The late, great Chuck Colson had impeccable taste in literature. By that I mean that he liked all of the same books that I like. Or I suppose that I should say, I like all of the same books he liked.

I especially loved the BreakPoint commentaries he’d do that focused on a great author. It always inspired me to hear Mr. Colson speak so eloquently and passionately about great novels that didn’t need Kirk Cameron starring in the movie version of them for Christians to praise.

While commenting on Fyodor Dostoevsky and his classic work Crime and Punishment, Colson said the following:

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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 6, 2014
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Do Christians Threaten Religious Liberty?
R. R. Reno, First Things

Jews ought to back away from any alliance with Christians when it comes to the contraceptive mandate, argues Yishai Schwartz in Tablet.

Why intact families are key to shared American prosperity
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

Family structure is often neglected when policymakers discuss income mobility, stagnation, and inequality. But it matters a lot whether kids, especially ones in working class and lower-income families, grow up with both biological parents.

The Magi and the Eternal Effect of Our Work
Hugh Whelchel, The Gospel Coalition

Who knows how God will use what we do today to further his kingdom tomorrow.

It’s Not Every Day You Get to Save a Five-Year-Old’s Life
Don Fornes, A Million Little Ways

What if your business is primarily commercial and not, well, saving the world?

If you’re interested in how your tax dollar is being spent at the local level, check out Open The Books, a project of American Transparency.  It was founded by Adam Andrzejewski as a “national rallying cry for transparency in public spending.” The mission of this project is to “engage, educate and empower citizens to demand transparent, accountable and smart government across America. If you are one of the tens of thousands from all walks of life who believe in the same principles, we are here to help.” Click through on the “more” link to see the widget and check outgovernment spending in your hometown. (more…)

“With every passing year, and each new EU bailout, Europeans seem to be forgetting where they came from,” writes journalist David Aikman in a new review of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. In The Weekly Standard, Aikman commends Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg’s book for showing how the long post-war project designed to advance European integration, economic security and social welfare has in fact degenerated into government dependency and bureaucratic bloat. The former Time magazine senior correspondent and bestselling author also applauds Gregg for reminding us that Marxist inspired “redistributionism” is really the core problem. Excerpt from the review:

The idea of a European federal superstate as an economic and political entity was never far from the minds of Europe’s key founders. Democratic capitalism was to be the main economic engine of that entity. But as Samuel Gregg points out in this cogently argued study—which frequently refers to Alexis de Tocqueville—whereas the American federal experiment emphasized economic and political freedom as the prerequisites for social prosperity and “human flourishing,” Europe’s postwar program was heavily influenced by social democracy. The goal became economic security for everyone, an idea that required labor-union political power and large bureaucracies to administer the welfare state.

Gregg correctly reminds us that behind social democracy’s stress on fair economic outcomes for Europe’s population lay the fundamental Marxist principle of redistributionism. He certainly does not attribute the European Union’s recent woes to the influence of Marxism, but he assembles a variety of ingredients that add up to what he calls “social Europe,” a social-welfare coterie of EU countries in which general prosperity has declined as economic freedoms have been whittled down. (more…)

Video-GamesWhy are working-class men falling behind? Economic, familial, and lifestyle factors all play a role. One of the main reasons less-educated men are losing economic opportunities, explains anthropologist Michael Jindra, is that they are gaining more ways to indulge in entertainment and leisure:

Dr. Leonard Sax’s Boys Adrift lists video games among the causes of boys’ school struggles, not because they drive boys to violence, but because they create a need for stimulation, crowd out reading, and lessen boys’ focus in school and other activities. (Boys play console games, commonly used for sports and violent games, at four times the rate of girls.) Rates of ADHD have skyrocketed, and the causes of this are unclear, but overstimulation may play a role. These patterns can also lead later in life to heavy television viewing, often of sports (witness the domination ESPN has over the male gaze), and heavy online activity, such as viewing porn.

[. . .]

All of these things mentioned above—early reliance on stimulating entertainment, lower educational attainment, disconnection from families and role models, and the attractions of different, “edgy” subcultures—contribute to a widening gulf between those more connected to family, work, and society, and those without these commitments. While men are losing connections, women continue to participate in the labor force, attend religious services more often, and belong to other community and civic organizations. This is partly because many have dependent children and need to support them, whereas men can to a large extent avoid this responsibility.

Read more . . .

Back in October, I was a guest on the radio show World Have Your Say on BBC World Service. The occasion was the suspension by the Vatican of the Bishop of Limburg, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst, known as the “bishop of bling.” The bishop had reportedly recently spent 31 million euros (roughly $41 million) for the renovation of the historic building that served as his residence, inciting his suspension and a Vatican investigation into these expenditures.

Using this as a springboard, the subject of the BBC discussion was “Should Religious Leaders Live a Modest Life?”

Today, Tim Roberts of the National Catholic Reporter records a similar, but perhaps more ambiguous, case with regards to the Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan:

Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan has purchased a new residence, an historic mansion that once served as the home of the president of Rowan University.

The New Jersey diocese purchased the 7,000 square foot home with eight bedrooms and six bathrooms for $500,000. The residence will provide Sullivan with more room for entertaining dignitaries, hosting donors and for work space, according to Peter Feuerherd, diocesan spokesman.

He said the bishop will live there “with at least two other priests, maybe more.”

The home, built in 1908, has been on the market for about two years. According to a report in the Camden Courier Post newspaper, the home was purchased in 2000 for Dr. Donald Farish, then president of Rowan University. Under the university’s ownership, the house underwent about $700,000 in renovations.

Some of the amenities include an in-ground pool, three fireplaces, a library and a five-car garage. (more…)