Trickle Down vs. Seep Up economics

Republicans trying to help the economy have pushed for “trickle down economics.” That is, help businesses, who, in turn, will hire more people, which will increase prosperity for all. Democrats tend to favor what we might term “seep up economics.” (Hey, maybe there is my contribution of a new term. I couldn’t find it on google.) The idea is to help individual workers, who, in turn, will have money to spend that will help businesses.

The cornerstone of Barack Obama’s stimulus plan is massive spending to repair the nation’s roads and bridges. Also money to weatherproof buildings, build new school buildings, etc. In other words, much of the money and the job creation will go to construction companies.

I worked construction putting myself through college, and I honor those workers. That industry requires highly-skilled and specialized experts–not just anyone can work steel or operate a crane or survey gradients–as well as lower-skilled laborers like I was. Those latter jobs, though, are taken up largely today by not-always-legal immigrants. Contractors say that Americans often don’t want those jobs, not finding hauling lumber, digging ditches, and pouring concrete all that fulfulling. (I did all of those jobs, to the great benefit of my character!) Will massive government spending to create these kinds of jobs actually employ 4 million Americans, as planned, or just create an even bigger market for illegal immigrants?

How would a huge infusion of cash into road construction help the typical laid off factory worker or the downsized company executive or the busted Wall Street investor? I suppose the theory is that a construction boom would help the factories that make the equipment and raise the stock of the companies that own the factories, which, in turn, would help other businesses. But
do you think seep up economics like this will really give the economy the help it needs?

Of Institutions & Vocation

Columnist David Brooks discusses a book by political scientist Hugh Heclo entitled “On Thinking Institutionally,” which he contrasts with the individualistic approach to life. Isn’t another name for what he is talking about VOCATION?

“In this way of living, to borrow an old phrase, we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. As we go through life, we travel through institutions — first family and school, then the institutions of a profession or a craft.

Each of these institutions comes with certain rules and obligations that tell us how to do what we’re supposed to do. Journalism imposes habits that help reporters keep a mental distance from those they cover. Scientists have obligations to the community of researchers. In the process of absorbing the rules of the institutions we inhabit, we become who we are.

New generations don’t invent institutional practices. These practices are passed down and evolve. So the institutionalist has a deep reverence for those who came before and built up the rules that he has temporarily taken delivery of. “In taking delivery,” Heclo writes, “institutionalists see themselves as debtors who owe something, not creditors to whom something is owed.”

The rules of a profession or an institution are not like traffic regulations. They are deeply woven into the identity of the people who practice them. A teacher’s relationship to the craft of teaching, an athlete’s relationship to her sport, a farmer’s relation to her land is not an individual choice that can be easily reversed when psychic losses exceed psychic profits. Her social function defines who she is. The connection is more like a covenant.

HT: Frank Sonnek

Freedom in vocation

Thanks to Tickletext for citing in a comment this quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Creation and Fall:

[Man] is free for the worship of the Creator. In the language of the Bible, freedom is not something man has for himself but something he has for others. No man is free “as such,” that is, in a vacuum, in the way that he may be musical, intelligent or blind as such. […] Freedom is not a quality which can be revealed–it is not a possession, a presence, an object, nor is it a form for existence–but a relationship and nothing else. In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means “being free for the other,” because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.

This, of course, has to do with vocation, the purpose of which is to love and serve your neighbor whom God brings to you in your various callings (in the family, the workplace, the church, and the culture).

Pastoring and other happy jobs

According to another one of those studies, the job that scores highest on the happiness index for people who hold it is (believe it or not) being a pastor! Here are the top ten in order of happiness:

1. Clergy
Job Description: Conduct religious worship and perform spiritual functions associated with beliefs and practices of religious faith or denomination.

Very happy: 67.2%
Median salary*: $44,102

2. Firefighters
Job Description: Control and extinguish fires, protect life and property and conduct rescue efforts.

Very happy: 57.2%
Median salary: $45,553

3. Transportation, ticket, and reservation agents such as travel agents
Job Description: Travel agents plan and sell transportation and accommodations for travel agency customers.

Very happy: 56.5%
Median hourly rate (travel agents): $14.23

4. Architects
Job Description: Plan and design structures, such as private residences, office buildings, theaters, factories, and other structural property.

Very happy: 53.5%
Median salary: $54,079

5. Special education teachers
Job Description: Teach school subjects to educationally and physically handicapped students.

Very happy: 52.6%
Median salary (preschool, kindergarten or elementary school): $41,344
Median salary (secondary school): $43,060

6. Actors and directors
Job Description: Actors play parts in stage, television, radio, video, or motion picture productions for entertainment, information, or instruction.

Very happy: 51.0%
Salary varies greatly

7. Science technicians
Job Description: Use principles and theories of science and mathematics to solve problems in research and development, and to help invent and improve products and processes.

Very happy: 51.0%
Median salary (research scientists): $72,435

8. Miscellaneous mechanical and repairing occupations
Job Description: Automotive service technicians and mechanics diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul automotive vehicles.

Very happy: 53.6%**
Median hourly rate (mechanics/auto tune up): $15.26

9. Industrial engineers
Job Description: Design, develop, test, and evaluate integrated systems for managing industrial production processes.

Very happy: 48.4%
Median salary: $61,729

10. Airline pilots and navigators
Job Description: Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers pilot and navigate the flight of multi-engine aircraft in regularly scheduled service for transport of passengers and cargo.

Very happy: 49.1%
Median hourly rate (airline pilots, copilots, or flight engineers): $63

I am rather astonished at this, since pastors, to my mind, have one of the hardest and most stressful of jobs, taking on as they do the problems and burdens of everyone in their congregation. I have known quite a few unhappy pastors, most of whom are unhappy for very good reasons. I’d like to hear from pastors about what they think of this survey and the nature of the happiness it records.

Notice that few of these jobs earn that much money. (Actors & directors maybe, if you are a big Hollywood star or mogul, but there aren’t many of those. Most folks in these professions barely get by and have no security, living as they do from one gig to the next.) Isn’t it interesting that not “teachers” but “special education teachers,” who one would think have the most heart-breaking of tasks, have so much happiness.

What all can we conclude about vocation from this study?

HT: Rev. Braaten at Concordia TheoBLOGical Seminary

Vocation on the Hudson

Look at the many examples of vocation at work in what happened with that water landing in the Hudson River: All Survive Jet’s Splashdown in Hudson River – The pilot, the crew, the passengers, and the boaters who rallied to help them all loved and served their neighbors with coolness and heroism.

Theology of the Cross: Good Works & Vocation (#4)

Still more from Carl Trueman’s article Luther’s Theology of the Cross:

Luther does not restrict the theology of the cross to an objective revelation of God. He also sees it as the key to understanding Christian ethics and experience. Foundational to both is the role of faith: to the eyes of unbelief, the cross is nonsense; it is what it seems to be—the crushing, filthy death of a man cursed by God. That is how the unbelieving mind interprets the cross—foolishness to Greeks and an offence to Jews, depending on whether your chosen sin is intellectual arrogance or moral self-righteousness. To the eyes opened by faith, however, the cross is seen as it really is. God is revealed in the hiddenness of the external form. And faith is understood to be a gift of God, not a power inherent in the human mind itself.

This principle of faith then allows the believer to understand how he or she is to behave. United to Christ, the great king and priest, the believer too is both a king and a priest. But these offices are not excuses for lording it over others. In fact, kingship and priesthood are to be enacted in the believer as they are in Christ—through suffering and self-sacrifice in the service of others. The believer is king of everything by being a servant of everyone; the believer is completely free by being subject to all. As Christ demonstrated his kingship and power by death on the cross, so the believer does so by giving himself or herself unconditionally to the aid of others. We are to be, as Luther puts it, little Christs to our neighbors, for in so doing we find our true identity as children of God.

This argument is explosive, giving a whole new understanding of Christian authority. Elders, for example, are not to be those renowned for throwing their weight around, for badgering others, and for using their position or wealth or credentials to enforce their own opinions. No, the truly Christian elder is the one who devotes his whole life to the painful, inconvenient, and humiliating service of others, for in so doing he demonstrates Christlike authority, the kind of authority that Christ himself demonstrated throughout his incarnate life and supremely on the cross at Calvary.

Prof. Trueman is Presbyterian, so he talks about “elders,” but what he says and what Luther says about being “little Christs to our neighbors” (from The Freedom of the Christian) is at the essence of the doctrine of vocation. It speaks to a Christian’s exercise of authority in all of the estates: in the church (pastors); in the state (rulers, citizens); and in the household (marriage, parenthood, the workplace).

Thus, we can say that husbands do indeed have authority over their wives; but the Christian husband should use that authority in self-denying, cross-bearing service to her. The same holds true for the authority of parents over their children, bosses over their employees, and lawful rulers over their charges. This rules out every kind of tyranny and self-serving imposition of power.