Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pope Francis Writes Again, I: Jobs and Income

As we’ve been pointing out on this blog for some time, people, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, liberal or conservative, Jew or Greek, slave or free, . . . whatever . . . have a positive knack for misunderstanding virtually everything that Pope Francis says.  Of course, a lot of this is conditioned by, one, the fact that most people (even doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs), have never learned how to think critically.  Two, most people hear what they want to hear, or what they think they want to hear.  The combination is fatal.

So, what did Pope Francis say this time?  Objectively speaking, and from a Just Third Way perspective, it was pretty innocuous stuff.  As he tweeted,

“How I wish everyone had decent work!  It is essential for human dignity.

“Those who value profits more than people are wrong. Money was not created in the image of God; men and women were. The economy must serve the people, and the dignity of work and workers must be protected. Workers are entitled to living wages, fair treatment, and the right to organize and form unions. And jobs. Amen.”

Obviously, the character limit of Twitter prevents a tweet from being anything more than a brief comment, with no room for the subtle nuances and cautious qualifications of, say, an encyclical or an apostolic exhortation.  So, we have to be careful not to read too much into these brief comments, and to keep in mind at all times that, as pope, Francis’s comments, teachings, and pretty much everything else relating to his office must, and can only be, understood within the context of more than 2,000 years of Christianity, and who knows how many millennia of Judaism, as well as whatever is true in other faiths and philosophies.  The Catholic Church, according to its own statements and beliefs, claims a fullness of truth (at least so far as it is within human capacity to grasp), not a monopoly that prevents anyone else from being right.

(And, frankly, who would want to belong to any religion or adhere to any philosophy that claimed you could not believe everything it taught?  After all, it’s one thing to discover you’ve made a mistake in something and work to correct it, but quite another to declare that it’s false, but you must believe it, anyway.)

Back to Pope Francis, however.  We believe that he is correct in that work is essential to human dignity.  The problem today is twofold — and Francis, constrained by space, couldn’t say enough to make an important qualification that permeates Catholic social teaching and its treatment of work: people limit themselves too much when they automatically link “work” and “income.”

Yes, in the current condition of society, in which most people have only their labor to sell, they are constrained to limit their income generating capacity to what they can realize by selling their labor.  That’s just a fact of life . . . for now.

As advancing technology takes over more and more of the task of producing goods and services, however, relying on labor alone to generate a living income becomes problematical.  What results is that, without ownership of the capital that is producing goods and services (and thus the right to receive the profits from that capital), most people are constrained to perform fake, boondoggle jobs just to get income, or resort to State handouts: welfare.  Both are offenses against human dignity.  Work changes from ennobling man, to degrading him, while becoming a permanent dependent of the State — effectively a slave — is even worse.


1 comment:

nail-in-the-wall said...

Economic Royalists

“The wage contract should whenever possible be modified somewhat by a contract of partnership between employer and employee so that the wage earners are made sharers in some measure in the profits, management, or ownership, of industry. Since both produce social wealth there is no reason why both should not share in the wealth produced. A worker in a factory has more right to the profits of his industry than a man who clips coupons. The only way to make Labor responsible is to give it some capital to defend; and the only way to make Capital responsible is to make it labor for its right to possession. Did you ever hear an artist agitate for a five hour day [or a minimum wage]? Why not? Because his work is his life. Today men do not work; they have employment. Work is a divine vocation; employment is an economic necessity. A laborer will sit down on someone else's tools, but no artist will sit down on his OWN paint brushes. The reason is, the artist's work entails responsibility. That is why those who are getting behind either Capitalists, to defend them against labor racketeers, or behind Labor, to defend it against economic royalists, are delaying the day of economic peace, and contributing to the present economic conflict. The Christian solution is to unite them on the basis of a common task.”

~Fulton J. Sheen, Address Delivered on February 7, 1943.