Dickens would have this guy’s guts for garters

Dickens would have this guy’s guts for garters December 30, 2011

Fabulously rich Obama Administration official wants to cut wages of $9/hour workers.

Listening to Obama talking about economic justice for the Common Man is like listening to Newt Gingrich talk about traditional family values and honesty in government.

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  • Tim

    Aren’t there a bunch of government employees making over $100,000.00 a year? Maybe they should cut those salaries first.

  • lala

    I wouldn’t work for $9 an hour. I thought the Australian award wage of $13 was bad enough. I don’t know how people could survive on that.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Well… Some people “on the right” would maintain that you are only “lazy” and trying to live off their taxes… This is the very reason why unions are still extremely important. Workers do not have the lobbying resources that their employers have, and unions are doing that for them. We may disagree about the so-called ideology behind large unions, and simply try to dismiss them by claiming that they are fundamentally influenced by “communist infiltration” (whether that is just a false perception or not), but union-bashing is certainly not helping the workers.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Sorry: Here is a correction. I did not mean to accuse you personally of trying to living off other people’s taxes, but what I wanted to say was that it appears that people who would not work for $9 an hour would be accused of being lazy. I have been negatively impressed (appalled) by claims from comments on some other blogs that a minimum wage only creates unemployment instead of helping workers, since employers are not able to hire people they consider as being less qualified at ever lower wages – while it seems obvious to me that such employers just would pay less to the more qualified workers.

      • lala

        Don’t worry i didn’t take it personally .To that i would answer that Australia has a much higher minimum wage & has LESS unemployment than the USA & is weathering the GFC a lot better. But what would we know where socialists!
        I agree that some of the union are extreem but without them the workers would be powerless.

  • Tom Connelly

    Wow! I didn’t realize that your average auto worker made so little money.

    • The average auto worker doesn’t make that little. Look at the break down of that plant:

      Top tier (900 workers): $29.00 hr
      Middle tier (500 workers): $16.00 hr
      Bottom (200): $9.00 hr

      That means the average hourly rate for a worker at that plant is over $22/hr. Top tier workers (the majority of workers at that plant) earn an annualized rate of about $60,000 per year. No wonder GM went bankrupt when it has to pay unskilled laborers that rate.

      This is Bethlehem Steel all over again where a greedy labor union and a short-sighted company management knuckled under to union demands to make for an unsustainable labor arrangement that ran an industry giant into the ground.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Who said that the “unskilled” workers were the ones getting the higher wage?

      • sjay

        $60k is not that much these days. It was a good thing when an average American could graduate from high school, keep his nose clean for a few years, and get a job where he could support his family.

        • Marthe Lépine

          This is exactly correct!

  • Harpy

    The referenced article is a mess. The $9/hr workers don’t appear to be UAW workers, while Steven Rattner was only referencing UAW workers. The UAW workers make $16-$29/hr with an average wage based on the article of $24.35/hr. Also, all the $9/hr workers are doing are physically moving parts from one place to another.

    I am all for the concept of a “living wage”, but a significant question from a social justice standpoint is this: “Does every job justify paying whatever we decide a “living wage” is?”

    Not sure if this really impacts Mark’s comment in any way though, since I fundamentally agree that many politicians of both stripes are hypocritical wealth accumulators…

    • Ink

      Frankly, I’m still looking for a job–and I don’t care if I earn nothing but minimum. I’m a student, living at home, who needs work experience. An individual person may require a living wage (for example, a parent with a family to feed)–obviously wages will be higher for those who have more to support. I’d imagine the idea is for employers to have a little compassion for their employees (which is why I fully support small businesses!) and take into consideration both their needs and the capacity and needs of the company.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Good question: “Does every job justify paying whatever we decide a “living wage” is?” If the worker is only a “factor or production”, as was said in some of my economics textbooks, the question makes sense. But if, as the Catholic Church teaches (according to my understanding), work exists to provide the worker with a living wage, the question reads as an expression of “capitalist” economics that does not see the workers as human beings, but as tools for the “bigger” employers to make ever more profits and make their shareholders ever more rich (remember Milton Friedman argument to the effect that the only social responsibility of corporations is to make money for their shareholders? He did write that – I read it myself in one of his books). Saying this, I am not generalizing by claiming all employers are exploiting their workers. Many smaller businesses are quite OK, and maybe, just maybe (since I do not really know), some of the bigger ones are too.
      To summarize: workers are entitled to a living wage. And to keep bashing unions for obtaining their members higher wages is just as much an expression of envy as it is also envy, according to many conservative people, to complain about the wealth of the 1%…

      • Marthe (and everyone else):

        On the subject of the minimum wage and a living wage, I wrote an article addressing this very issue a couple of years ago for InsideCatholic (now Crisis Magazine):


        • Harpy

          Fr. Rob – nicely done article. I might take issue with your statement about being close to “full employment”, but a good overview of the issues.

          I tend to tilt towards the Austrian School in many regards, and struggle to reconcile that with my social concerns (as you pointed out in your article, there are some fundamental features of Mises et al that are problematic from a Catholic perspective).

          • Harpy:

            When the article was written (2007), we were at nearly full employment. How things have changed!

            • Peggy R

              Fr. I read your article last night. Well done. Yeah, we’re not quite at full employment these days.

            • Harpy

              Ahhh — that makes sense … I saw a date of 2009 on that page somewhere and thought that was the byline date..

      • Harpy

        Marthe – one issue with your analysis is that not every worker is *seeking* a “living wage” There are a wide variety of people who, for whatever reason, may be perfectly happy with work that does not meet that hurdle – in other words they don’t need it to fulfill their basic needs per se.

        In any case, the primary challenge that I think we face is that capitalism is without dispute the most efficient way to generate goods and services – but it is not the best way to distribute those goods. Therein lies the rub….

  • Robert

    I think you read A Tale of Two Cities differently than I did.

  • Brian

    Agreed with Harpy, and Mark, just in principle, so he won’t feed me to the rancor.

    What I took away from the (short and confusing) article was that the government official was talking about the $16-$29 an hour workers. Now, granted, a wealthy government official waxing on about cutting the wages of the little people is, in general, pretty off-putting. But there’s a big difference in saying it about the guy who is wavering on the poverty line and the guy who is comfortably in the middle-class range.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Maybe, but have you noticed lately, at least in your country, that the middle class is rapidly shrinking? Maybe those people need protection too…

  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    “Listening to Obama talking about economic justice for the Common Man is like listening to Newt Gingrich talk about traditional family values and honesty in government.”

    That’s because there really are no fundamental differences between the two parties anymore. We have Red puppets and Blue puppets on the stage, but the same hands are holding their strings.

    The Red puppets want Big Business to have mastery over our lives. The Blue puppets want Big Government to have mastery over our lives. The problem is that Big Business and Big Government are the same thing these days.

    • Andy

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

    • One can say that big business and big government are the same thing, but one cannot say that big business is Republican.

      Big business overwhelmingly supports Democrat candidates and gives to Democrat causes. Look at the list of largest political contributors and which party their contributions go to. http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?order=A

      Big business loves big government. Why is that? Because big business likes big government regulations that help protect their markets. For instance remember a few years ago when there was a scare about lead in children’s toys? The toys in question were imported by major manufacturers. The result was a federal law implementing new testing of all children’s products for lead. Who loved the law most? Major manufacturers like Hasbro. They could afford to do the testing in house. Small manufacturers have to outsource the expensive testing. So the companies who were the reason for the legislation to “protect children” no benefit from the restrictions that prevent small companies from remaining or getting into the market.

      • Marthe Lépine

        If my memory is correct, it seems to me that most of the lead-containing toys came from China. How many small companies have been moving jobs to China to import cheaper goods? I do not know that Hasbro company, but does it do its manufacturing in the US?

        • Marthe Lépine

          Another thing: Why would a manufacturer, either big or small, need to do expensive tests? It seems very simple: do not purchase lead or materials containing lead to make toys! Only those who import from countries where manufacturers have little concern for safety and take all kinds of shortcuts would need to test the toys…

          • Dan F.


            I agree in substance with what you said but the law/regulation was written so that *every* toy had to be tested regardless of where the parts were sourced. Thus putting a number of small toy manufacturers, even ones completely made in the USA, out of business.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Marthe, you speak common sense. Unfortunately, companies import cheap goods from China because we have a Walmart-like consumerist society. People would rather buy 5 toys that are cheap and will break in no time than 1 quality US made toy that will last a long time. Why? Because we have been brainwashed that quantity is better than quality and thanks to TV and video games our kids have 5 min. attention spans that parents pander to.

      • sjay

        Big business loves the party in power, period.

  • brian_in_brooklyn

    “Listening to Obama talking about economic justice for the Common Man is like listening to Newt Gingrich talk about traditional family values and honesty in government.” OK, that made me truly lol.

  • Dickens?

    Why that’s a red. The Edward Feser school of GOP neo-scholastics (see his recent post on Nozickmass) would have you arrested for even mentioning such collectivist rabble.

  • Dickens?

    Why that’s a red. The Edward Feser school of neo-scholastics (see his recent post on Nozickmass) would have you arrested for even mentioning such collectivist rabble..

  • Mark R

    Toyota makes cars in the American South and I bet they pay workerws far less than Detroit based auto brands…but the dollar stretches farther in the South.
    Detroit is extremely top-heavy in management, and I believe Ford is the only one not to accept bail-out money. Lucky for Detroit, Japan had undergone a disaster this year, and some Toyota models had serious defects, otherwise I wonder if the auto industry would continue much longer in Detroit…It would be worse for Detroit auto workers to earn $0 per hour than $9.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    No, but almost without exception, Republicans love big business!

    • Peggy R

      B/c we favor economic liberty for every one. But not all big business likes the GOP. Wall ST is fully owned by the Dems. Crazy, I must say. YOu’d be surprised to hear how many CEOs are actually socialist and only in favor of liberty that benefits their interests. David Horowitz, reformed lefty, was shocked by learning that firsthand.

      The article isn’t quite clear as others note. I don’t like O much, but Ford did make headway in its survival by pushing UAW to give a little. That said, sure, “management” and executives should give a little too. After all, O himself asserted that every one has to have skin in the game.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Because you favor “economic freedom “for everyone,, even legal fictions created by government, I believe you meant to say.

    I’ve read a lot of your comments, Peggy. You’re as American as apple pie, I’ll grant, and therefore your understanding of freedom, economic or otherwise, is horribly flawed.

    Or it is if we believe the Church on what it means to be free.

    • Peggy R

      I am a professional economist. I have worked to limit the role of government in markets where intervention would worsen the market failure or where there is no real market failure. I have on several occasions recommended productive government action, but not over-regulation that unreasonably limits freedom or the superior workings of the market to the typically unsuccessful machinations and biases of government. I don’t hold the market as a ‘god’, but as man’s liberty being superior to government foul-ups which limit freedom. I am not an unreasonable absolutist.

      I do not place the USA above the Church, though I place great value on the liberty of man v govt, which the Church does not oppose. As Milton Friedman famously showed, a man cannot have political freedom without economic freedom.

      The Church believes in a man’s right to make his own way in this world, to own property and to provide for his family. That’s the liberty I am speaking of. Yes, it will result in some people acquiring more wealth and property than others. Jesus did expect those blessed to share their wealth. But he was not an economic or political revolutionary, as some Jews of his day had hoped or that today’s progressives imagine. I find myself aligned with the Acton Institute school of thought, which is not dissent or disobedience to the Church.

      • Peggy R

        P.S. I don’t know that I’d necessarily oppose a Catholic monarchy, by the way. I’d certainly oppose feudalism.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Who, in reality, could you owe fealty to?

          Of the people off the top of my head who might offer me land in return for such honours, I can’t think of anyone I’d do it for. Can you imagine declaring either Jeb Bush, [insert nomen] Kennedy, or the CEO of International Petroleum Conglomerates Amalgamated Unlimited LTD king?

          I mean, I don’t hold illusions that Franz Duke of Bavaria (the rightful Stuart pretender who completely disavows any claim to that throne) is ever going to be acclaimed such.

          Or that my own people will ever inhabit our own land on our own terms again.

          No, it doesn’t have a people fit for such relationships at present. It’s literally forgotten how to form them. It went very flabby, old Western Civilisation did, a long time ago. (And that doesn’t implicate Christianity for squat.)

          You can’t even make music, most of you. Now there’s an indictment! I don’t mean your recording industry, I mean your people. It still exists in pockets, throughout Europe, North America,etc I will grant, but traditional music is dead as a door nail. Radio eventually killed it. Music is provided, like all the other hard work in a civilisation, by people who want to sell you beer and shampoo.

          (Sham poo, heck, half the time they want to sell you real poo and call it caviar! That joke’s on the house!)

          No, seriously, I am, and am surrounded by, crippled people.

          You think I want feudalism in today’s condition? I’d be chattel.

          I just want enough land to be able to live very frugally. We did it on less than $4,000 a year ,with, I admit, the assistance of roughly 30lbs of processed cheddar cheese in 5lb logs, 120lbs of yellow (ugh) cornmeal, a quart of honey in two pints, i guess 48 cans of green beans or ‘vegetarian beans’, and 4 or 5 2lb cans of pork from the USDA, aka ‘commodities’ and ‘government cheese’. That’s a kids memory, so the ration maybe slightly askew, but its pretty close.

          But my considerations about this land factor in all sorts of things besides plot size necessary to efficiently feed a family. And so I am left mostly with waiting for particular folks to shuffle off, and their kids who ran off to sell out.

          No, I may think you were a much better people, and much better off, before the modern era did dawneth, but you can’t just pick up those relationships. if you tried to now, you’d be toast.

          I suspect more purification is prescribed, whether we likes our medicine or not.

          • Peggy R

            I don’t quite understand the “you” people approach you are taking. But otherwise…umm okay…whatever…

            My fealty is to God. I am a loyal citizen of my country as well. I am a devoted mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt…and so forth…

            I don’t oppose landed gentry owning and inheriting wealth and property. I oppose the slavery of their serfs to the feudal masters.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              The you is Westerners, or more precisely Moderns.

              And you know your people minimised and eradicated the ‘slavery’ aspect of serfdom, long before fuedalism ended?

              It can’t be helped, but just like your entire understanding of economics is shaped by the education you received, an education based in Calvinist doctrines, so too your knowledge of your own history is clouded and fogged by protestant propagandists who had very anti-cahtolic reasons for claiming pre-Modern Europe was the stifling stagnant pit you seem to think it was.

              • Peggy R

                So, you’re not a westerner? Are you Asian? African? South American?

                By the way, I read Fr. Johansen’s article he linked. My comments are consistent with his article on the Church’s view of a man’s right to own property and accumulate wealth.

          • SKay

            “Or that my own people will ever inhabit our own land on our own terms again.”

            What people and land are you speaking of?
            $4,000 was worth a lot more in the past than it is now-but I understand that even then it would have been difficult-even with commodities.
            I agree, it would be better for us all if we were to relearn a lot of the selfrelient skills that our parents and grandparents had – for many reasons.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              I am Chickamauga, and therefore an unaffiliated Cherokee. My people controlled the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains before being eventually driven into its southernmost extremities on the Blue Ridge and Cumberland Plateau around the time you began rebelling against your monarch. From these hidden towns we fought to reclaim our land throughout the rest of the 18th century. (We made a huge tactical error in 1812 and sided with the rest of the Cherokee in allying with the US. If we had aligned with the Red Sticks instead, Old Hickory’d be a dead braggart and history would be quite different.)

              Once there, most of my people were driven further west, some went south to Florida, continuing to fight into the 1890’s.

              My family, some women of the Paint Clan, hid instead in May’s Gulf, now called Little River Canyon, for nearly a decade before emerging around 1845 and marrying various white men and their sons who had purchased the land in Broom’s Valley. My grandmother, and her grandmother before her, were medicine women. And her grandmother was Nanny Ollie, wife of Adaga’kala (the Little Carpenter) and mother of Tsiyugansini (Dragging Canoe), the Chickamauga predeccessor and mentor to the Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh.

              But no, the $4000 a yr (in the 1980’s) went to taxes and some luxuries. And the commodities were luxuries as well. No, we lived a quite fine life even without the commodities. (Real hunting lands would have helped, but by the 1980’s we simple savages had managed to learn some animal husbandry.)

              Most of my father’s generation, being the first to endure this current level of exposure to modernity, ran off and sold out. (As an example, my dad’s kid brother engineered the MCI takeover by WorldCom in the 90’s)

              County government declared that we couldnt hold our own land and make our own living if we didn’t have a porcelain throne room somewhere in the house. Our outhouse was 75 yards from our house and over 200 yards from our well, and it just wasnt good enough. Apparently ever man must be a king!

              So when I was 15, I left the freedom of Broom’s Valley to take up residence in the county projects, where we lived off the real dole, not just commodities, until my Dad got his RN (since his engineering degree was so outdated as to be useless.)

              I have a responsibility to hold land there, and my plan was to work, play your game, earn my nut and go. Then I discovered your economy is a shell game.
              And so with dams and roads, you did what you couldn’t do with musket and firebrand: any Indian living as an Indian in Broom’s Valley today is over 70, and likely no longer owns any real land.

              • Peggy R


                I doubt that you’d find much approval here for the actions of our government toward America’s native peoples. I am sorry for what your people have suffered and the injustices that have not been remedied. We Americans of all varieties are finding that the country we knew seems to be slipping away as well. But yes, we in this thread are speaking of economic problems in America today as she is. Countries shall come and go, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against Jesus’ Church. What else can we say to you in 2011?

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Your qualifications not withstanding, when you speak of freedom, you speak of an absence of coercion.

    This is a horribly impoverished notion of human freedom, of recent vintage, and almost inseperable from the “Enlightenment” which spawned it.

    While your veiwpoint is very western, I fail utterly to see how it is remotely Christian.

    Economic freedom doesn’t mean an absence of hierarchical control and coercion. It means a condition wherein ones material needs cannot be manipulated to draw one from God.

    Freedom is resting in God, not cutting off your chains. And your economic “freedom” leaves the common man vulnerable to precisely such manipulation.

    Basically, your economic freedom is hardly distinguishable from the left’s sexual freedom. Unless of course, Mammon and Moloch can be distinguished by scent.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      A society that was *truly* committed to just and prosperous living conditions for its most vulnerable members would be *very* regulatitive of sexual morality, as well as of economic activity.

      Did you know that his parents’ sexual patterns are *the* best single predictor of whether a young male has been incarcerated. *Not*his race, his income, his educational background, nor whether or not he is employed. The factor most convicts have in common by far – Latino, African-African, white, skinhead, neo-Nazi, Native American – is no Dad in the picture. Not many convicts grew up in homes with their mothers and fathers who were married to each other. A few did. Most did not. And that’s controlling for race, income, educational attainment, area of the country, you name it. For a boy to grow up with married parents is about the closest thing that exists to inoculating him against growing up to be a felon, that we know of.

      And who talks about that?

      Our government might, with good reason, promote this information and encourage people to marry before they have children, and after they have children, to stay married. The way our government encourages people to quit smoking, buckle their safety belts, and recycle.

      But they don’t. And it’s really too bad.

      A truly just society would tell young people the truth: that wedlock and stable homes are best for children, and would encourage them to create and maintain these.

      This was the case until the early 1960s; then with Flower Power, and the Sexual Revolution, it became socially acceptable to sleep around, have babies by a variety of fathers, divorce, remarry, divorce, and re-remarry. And all this took place when our country’s economy was still very, very good. These changes were not economically driven; they were cultural and social.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Other than going back a few years to at least the institution of no-fault divorce, I say bravo!

        I’ve never seen it put so well.

        Signed, oddly enough,

        A guy who grew up with no mom, due to divorce.

        • Peggy R

          I am a child of divorce as well. That “cure” has been worse than the “disease” of the family problems at the time. I abhor divorce.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I love how you leap from efficiency to goodness.

    Capitalism may not be the best distribution model, but you didn’t even claim it was a good, much less superlative, generator of wealth, merely that it is most efficient.

    Your Austrian school, to which I subscribed before entering the Church, conflates efficiency with goodness, and never substantially questions the assumption.

    Social justice is easier to swallow once you start really questioning your assumptions.

    • Harpy

      Hezekiah – trust me that I am always questioning my assumptions. Also, I don’t really subscribe to the “Austrian” school – I just lean a bit more in that direction. All of the different economic models have significant problems. Economic systems are inherently Chaotic (in the mathematical sense), and so thinking that any single set of assumptive rules (Keynes, Mises, etc) will be *predictive* is just drinking the kool-aid as far as I am concerned.

      I am not interested in “swallowing” so-called “social justice”, I am interested in trying in my own small way to make personal decisions that recognize human dignity and be aligned with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I note that many lay and ordained in the church push failed economic models while beating on the “social justice” drum.

      I think that the right direction (as pointed out elsewhere in these threads) is in the direction of subsidiarity and more local decision making.

      I don’t know, I certainly don’t have all the answers – but in the meanwhile I’ll at least be trying to make reasonable observations and ask increasingly better questions.. 😉

  • Peggy R

    Indeed, the highest and best ideals of freedom are from God. Do you think man should be slave to another man–in any sense of the word.
    We must understand that the boogeyman of “unfettered markets” are no more and are not a threat to the economic wellbeing of “the common man.”
    The “common man” is not required to be the serf or slave of any landed gentry or corporate titan. He is is own man, against the government and against “big” business. There is socio-economic mobility in the US and most western societies. One is not limited or constrained as in feudal or slavery systems. Would you like to return to such socio-economic strictures?

    My comment seems “spammy”! I hope this goes thru…

  • Peggy R

    part 2: My comment was too “spammy”…
    Yes, I did expect the comparison to s*xual libertinism. S*xual libertinism is more like crime that causes great social disorder and instability, and damages lives, as we’ve seen. There’s really no social benefit to sexual liberty as there is with economic liberty. No person is better off with sexual liberty. We won’t win constitutional cases with only the moral reasoning b/c no one is constitutionally obligated to accept our moral belief. We have to discuss the reasons that Muriel enumerated, plus the history of kinship and liaisons are reasons for marriage, which has only been hetero in all societies, pagan or not. (But marriage has been polygamous in non-Christian societies. We’ll have to tackle that.) The long and short is there is no “protection” or benefit provided to either the parties of such a union or to society from the formation of such a union. So, there is no reason or benefit to society for the State to recognize such unions. We can’t stop people from engaging in gay “sex” (unless you want to pass the laws and enforce them) but the state doesn’t have to and should not endorse it as a right of man–yet Lawrence v Texas did just that.
    So, to an idea of a well-ordered society and economic liberty. Our govt set up some economic “safety nets” in the wake of the Depression to help provide stability. Today, we have more than enough safety nets which are now bankrupting our governments, in fact. I see no need for more. Any body in need today can find a way to get govt transfer payments. The wealthy have always been expected to share their gifts with the poor. (Are we going to take that property away and make them be charitable? Oh, we already do that quite a bit.) We have lots of regulations and mechanisms that are to provide macro-economic stability as well. That’s really the most that the govt can do, though we also regulate utilities which have appeared to be “natural monopolies.”


    • Hezekiah Garrett

      To cut to the chase, you equate holding ones’ land by birthright with slavery, and the state of things with freedom?

      If that’s correct, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

      • Peggy R

        I harbor no opposition toward inherited or earned wealth. I scarcely see a difference between feudalism and slavery, however. The servants were tied to the property of the landed gentry with no hope of improved conditions. They were entirely reliant upon the grace of the landed gentry. No man had an opportunity to escape such a state in life or society. No opportunity to acquire property until mercantilism. I can’t say I know what socio-economic or perhaps technological change made mercantilism possible, however. If property owners (inherited or earned property, large or small) seek help in property maintenance, they pay wages for such labor. The laborer chooses such work today. A laborer could not choose any kind of work or ‘career’ under feudalism. He worked with the approval of his patron, for his patron’s benefit. Indeed, there is some nobility in such mutual allegience, but it rendered the common man his slave and unable to determine his own future or own property. The common man has freedom today that he did not have under feudalism and slavery. Gotta go. Happy New Year.

        • Marion (Mael Muire)

          I scarcely see a difference between feudalism and slavery, however.

          From the point-of-view of the serf of medieval Europe and the African slave of the 17th and 18th c. U.S., there were some important differences. And key among these was the mitigating influence of the Church. The serf-holding lord was bound by law and custom to provide the basics for his serfs, even to selling some of his property to prevent them starving in bad times. The U.S. slave-holder might sell off some of his slaves, instead, during lean times, and hold onto his other property. This meant that African-American slave families might be broken up at whim by the owner, its various members sold and never hearing from one another again.

          The medieval serf and his or her children might expect to live with their own extended family throughout their entire lives; the lord was prevented from selling them away to strangers.

          Medieval serfs enjoyed many days “off” on liturgical feastdays throughout the year, and custom obligated the lord to provide supplies for his serfs to celebrate with. U.S. slaves worked day and day out with little time, if any, for rest.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Ok, so If I can’t climb the social ladder, or the economic ladder, I am not free?

          You look at a very large extended family, a band, almost a tribe, and you see a capitalist and a bunch of slaves.

          I understand your position. I used to hold it at one time. What I am trying to say is that you are dead wrong, and that such error just holds no attraction for people who know better.

          • Peggy R


            Now that I know your perspective as a Native American, I understand some of where you’re coming from. But, yes, if a man cannot acquire property and wealth, he is not free. My view of property rights of man does not exclude native peoples of America. How do we resolve the injustices of the past is today’s question? I don’t have all those answers here.

            I don’t know why you say that my view of an extended family and tribe is equivalent to a capitalist and his slaves. Men who work for a wage are not slaves–hopefully the wage is just of course. A tribe or extended family is entitled and free to organize itself as it wishes, I’d think. (Within marriage laws and such.) I don’t know how constructive or restrictive the US policies and laws are toward the various nations of native peoples. I suspect the nations are very over-controlled to their detriment from things I have read over the years. Cheers.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    “The common man has freedom today that he did not have under feudalism and slavery.

    Freedom, yes. But freedom has a price. And that price has been that as the free man’s fortunes may rise to the skies by dint of his skill and hard work, they may also fall to the depths in case of illness, accident, or hard times . . sometimes never to recover.

    Many people don’t have the stomach for that kind of responsibility or those kinds of odds – a youth and early manhood living a frugal life with unrelenting nose-to-the-grindstone work in hopes of magnificent success, and the ability to something aside for a rainy day, knowing that if you fall desperately ill, or if there are a few too many bad years, you and your family face utter ruin anyway.

    Many people find comfort in the thought of an ambitionless and plodding work life – not too hard, not too many hours, don’t have to think too hard or worry too much – and a cradle-to-grave safety net. That’s essentially what the medieval serfs had. But the medieval lord collected tribute (taxes) from the serfs, and the serfs had little say in the conduct of their country’s government, compared to the inflence of the rich and powerful.

    Whereas, today, we as free Americans mostly don’t have to think too hard or worry too much, enjoy a cradle-to-grave safety net, but we don’t have any medieval lord collecting tribute from us, and each and every one of us has plenty of say in the conduct of our country’s government – we get to cast a vote and send emails to our very responsive congressional representatives, giving them a piece of our mind – just as the rich and powerful are free to do.

    (Except the rich and powerful actually, you know, inflence things. And their emails don’t go into the Congressional circular file.)

    Yep a’mighty, things sure are different between us free Americans and your average medieval serf.

    • SKay

      “but we don’t have any medieval lord collecting tribute from us,”
      No–but 50% do have the IRS and state taxes to deal with and those who own property do pay property taxes for schools and local government.

      Governments have no money of their own-it has to come from people working in the private sector earning the money to pay the taxes to provide government saleries and safty nets etc–unless, of course, you want the government to own everything(and that has always worked out so well in the past).
      We certainly should pay attention to what is happening in Europe–and why.

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        I get your drift, skay.

        Maybe we the People have gotten used the idea of placing ourselves into serfdom to the uberState that collects mondo-taxes from us in exchange for cradle-to-grave safety net . . . and also the uberState gets to have more power and more and more. Like, for example, the various churches become apparatuses of the uberState. Not officially, and not entirely. But ultimately, the uberState has to sign off on what the churches can and cannot do.

        For example, churches have to provide contraceptive coverage, even those churches which believe such is a sin. UberState diktat trumps sin. Obey or close your doors. Church-run hospitals have to provide abortions, sterilizations, even those which believe such is a sin. UberState diktat trumps sin. Obey God? or obey the State? Church-run adoption agencies have to provide babies to homosexual couples, even those which believe such relationships are sinful. UberState diktat trumps everything.

        Oh, the UberState will leave the various churches alone to do their little church-y thing for the most part. But when the UberState calls out “jump”, the churches better answer, “How high?” or they will be sued into bankruptcy, taxed into bankruptcy, or something else will be done to shut them down. And the churchmen have long since known it, and they obey.

        That amounts to a takeover of the churches by the state, in my book. A laissez-faire sort of takeover, but a takeover. No longer are church and state separate entities, side by side, each with its own sphere. No, they’re still separate, but the bloated enormous state has mounted atop the church (and atop everything else), like the giant spider in Lord of the Rings (“she”). There may be little contact or interference from day to day, but should the spider one day decide she doesn’t like something the church is doing or not doing, well, we know in advance how that is going to play out, in the end. Because the spider is the spider and it is huge.

        The American government as medieval overlord. Who woulda thunk it?

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          It still sounds like this freedom ya’ll bandy about is just unfettered ambition. And why should we deem ambition a virtue?

          God made the soil, God made the seeds, God made the intellects we used to domesticate them. He gave us the Church that urges us onto so much that is human and truly beautiful. But to organize a society that uses those gifts from God, for the betterment of the whole people, the whole band, or county or whatever term you’d like to use, is derided as lazy and gutless?

          I’m not, as Ive said elsewhere, urging ya’ll back to fuedalism. But you’re never going to improve your civilisation until you recognise things were better in the most important ways before. Once you do that, you can grow new relationships even better than the old ones. You can have something better than fuedalism and WAAAAAy better than modernity.

          But you have to abandon this notion that a man is an island.

          • Marion (Mael Muire)

            Our Founding Fathers, and by that I mean the U.S. Founding Fathers saw the choice in this way:

            Option 1. A society with a profoundly and all-permeating Protestant Christian ethos, with an established Church and a Christian representative government, with all members of government adhering to that Church, along with all property and business owners. Religious non-adherents would always exist, and might make their way in such a society, but they would exist on the margins politically and economically. Hard work and the amassing of wealth would be held up at all levels as a duty for all, to be rewarded if not much in this life, then in the next. Such a society would function as a smooth, well-oiled machine, everyone on board: the wealthy helping the poor, either via the govt, or directly; the poor realizing that it’s a question of being “deserving” or being left behind; most everybody behind most laws.

            Option 2. Utter and complete freedom. Little or no government safety net. You’re on your own. Separation of Church and state; no established church; a wide-open secular civil society. Whether Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, or atheist, the field is clear to anyone to work for power, opportunity, wealth, influence . . . or for destitution. Your call. It’s a question of how much grit, ambition, determination, resources, connections you can marshall to make it happen for yourself and for those you choose to pull up along with you. And not happen, for those you choose to leave behind.

            A third option has been tried in Europe: a secularized civil society with no particularly compelling general faith in reward for hard work or for the amassing of property either in this life or in the next; instead, cradle-to-grave care for all no matter what. Or totalitarian Communism: (“we pretend to work; they pretend to pay us.”) These systems seem to work for a few generations, but now it appears that the wealth and the work ethic necessary to sustain such a system must exist in reserve (amassed in earlier systems by previous generations, as with the Germans and Scandinavians); once gone through and used up, gone forever, without being replaced in any significant measure. In other words, such systems may indeed last a century or so, but then they burn themselves out for lack of fuel.

            No fuel, no fire.

            No fuel, no fire, no food, no roof, no nothing.

            • Will

              Not true. You should check out northern Europe a little better.

              • Marion (Mael Muire)

                Indeed, not true yet. But well on its way to becoming true, for those with eyes to see.

  • Teri

    Do you know why we don’t get our windshields washed or our tires checked for air? Could it be minimum wage?
    …why some small businesses only hire one worker instead of two.
    There was an interview with a small restaurant owner re minimum wage. He said it was hard enough just to find people who would show up for work every day.
    Perhaps it would make more economic sense to start new workers below minimum wage, then increase the earnings of those who do show up for work every day.
    That way new workers could gain experience and more teenagers could get jobs.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      So he already can’t afford reliable help at the wages he is being forced to pay, and your solution would be to let him offer lower wages?

      Lower than the 2 or 3 dollars an hour he already pays his servers?

      Why don’t you get out, pop your hood and check your own oil, as opposed to arguing for the further exploitation of the weak? You know, if we’d make things hard enough on the poor, I bet you wouldn’t even need a car, you could be borne about by litter!

    • Marthe Lépine

      Maybe there is not enough incentive to show up for work every day if the pay is not sufficient to make a living…

      • Peggy R

        From what I’ve heard from contractor employers in my local area, the problems may be drugs, alcohol and an utter lack of sense of responsibility in the younger generations. They work long enough for a check and run off. Excellent bennies were offered too by some employers I know. But they go and spend on booze, whatever interests them and can’t get back to work. No this isn’t every one, but it’s enough people that employers have noticed it.

        • SKay

          I agree, Peggy. I have heard employers in my area also say they are having trouble hiring because those applying cannot pass the drug test.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Maybe “drugs, alcohol and an utter lack of sense of responsibility” come, in part, from a difficulty seeing any hope for the future, e.g. hope for a reasonably prosperous life with a good job and a stable family? Many of the people so caught into a life of drug or alcohol dependency would not be able to express it in the above words, but they may have let themselves be sold the chemical way out because they just did not see what else they could get from life. This is one of the things that can happen when children are left with extremely poor, if any, religious and moral education, among other causes. For example, the secular message that money is everything and that money rules the world, combined with a perceived inability to ever get that kind of success, might trigger a reaction of just not caring and using the first available way of “enjoying” themselves. I recognize that this is only a very partial explanation, books could be written about the loss of hope in our modern society, but it is just an attempt on my part to suggest one idea for reflection, among many others, instead of just blaming and condemning the attitudes of some people.

  • Tom Connelly

    Why don’t we just double the salaries, benefits, and pensions of these 1600 workers? Hell, why don’t we triple them? The cost, as Ralph Kramden might have said, is “a mere bag of shells.” After all, our debt ceiling just exceeded (or is about to exceed) $16 trillion. The government spends about $4 trillion a year (while collecting only $2 to $3 trillion). What’s another few billion, or even a few hundred billion, on the tab of our children and granchildren?


    • Marthe Lépine

      It could be done, just stop waging war all over the world! Of course, weapon making is big business in your country… Somebody have to use those weapons.

      • Tom Connelly

        Nonsense. In fiscal year 2010 the U.S. government spent $683 billion on defense. That means that even if we reduced our defense spending to zero, we wouldn’t come close to balancing the budget for a single year, never mind reducing the $16 trillion in debt.

        • Will

          Cutting 100 or 200 billion dollars a year would not hurt.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Mark published an interesting graph several weeks ago at the time the OWS was being discussed, and that graph shows that even at the amount you are quoting, war and military spending amount to more than one half of total budget. However it seems that it will not copy from my file; as soon as I have a chance to go back through Mark’s blogs I will add the link.

    • SKay

      Great link-thanks.
      So true.

      • SKay

        Sorry-I was referring to your Mark Steyn link above.

    • Marthe Lépine

      It could also be done with a little better distribution of income within corporations. I, for one, find it difficult to accept that CEOs are so much more productive that they warrant receiving the equivalent of the salary of the average working person, each and every day and a half, or two days, that they work!
      See the following link:
      Top CEOs earn 189 times average Canadian wage
      By Jan. 3 some executive pay equals yearly income for most
      CBC News
      Posted: Jan 3, 2012 1:13 AM ET

      The highest paid CEOs have gained more ground in Canada, and are now making 189 times the average Canadian wage, according to a new report.
      The 100 highest paid chief executives whose companies are listed on the S&P/TSX composite index made an average of $8.38 million in 2010, according to figures pulled from circulars by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
      It means that by noon on Jan. 3, the average top executive will have already made as much money as the average Canadian worker makes in a year.

  • Joe DeVet

    I think this post and its headline are very misleading. No one in a GM plant makes as little as $9 an hour. If you check the actual earnings of people on the assembly line, you will find most of them make $60k to $100k per year. You will also find that their benefits amount to about 30 to 40% in addition to that, including very rich layoff provisions, pensions, and health care. This is part of the problem with the industry in the US–its cost structure is way out of line, and the pay structure is very high compared to other industries.

    As a result, for decades the rest of us overpaid for our US-built cars in order to support the overpayment of the auto workers. This is largely due to the UAW’s monopoly on the auto industry labor market. The Obama Admin’s bailout was really a bailout of the UAW, ensuring that they would contribute back to the re-election campaign and see that their membership voted Democrat again in 2012.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Joe DeVet,

      If you’ll read the linked article, you are wrong.


    • Marthe Lépine

      Well, there is overpayment of the workers and overpayment of the top managers… There used to be some notion of a healthy proportion between what the workers earned and what the top executives earned. If my memory is correct: did not one of the car industry CEOs go to Washington to discuss a bailout in the company’s executive jet?

    • Marthe Lépine

      Well, there is overpayment of the workers and overpayment of the top managers… There used to be some notion of a healthy proportion between what the workers earned and what the top executives earned. If my memory is correct: did not one of the car industry CEOs go to Washington to discuss a bailout in the company’s executive jet? Oh… And was it a bailout of the UAW or a bailout of the workers who chose the UAW to represent them? Unions are usually democratically voted in, you know.

  • Peggy R

    I would agree that the European serfdom was largely benevolent. American slavery of Africans was particularly malevolent. Slavery has occurred across a variety of places and times and cultures of the world. Nonetheless, in no case was man able to make his own way to own property, to improve his position, and provide for his family or to have “self-determination.” I think Fr. Johansen’s article he linked points out that the Church has supported mans’ right to improve his lot and acquire wealth and property.

    Yes, freedom has its price and should have limits. I have not argued against any limits. God gave us free will. Yes, we should balance our temporal freedoms with the impact on social or individual well-being. Is this freedom good for society to have? Does it benefit society? Does the individual benefit from this freedom?

    While our study of various disciplines such as science, social sciences and economics should indeed be tempered and guided by our Catholic faith, we should learn the discipline itself as well and understand its principles and understand how/why sometimes the govt intervention won’t help in spite of good intentions.

    • Peggy R

      Note: I should specify the impact on the family as well. Do families benefit from individuals/families having such freedom?

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        Thanks for your interesting comment, Peggy.

        I would not like to go on record agreeing with the statement that medieval serfdom was “benevolent.” I would characterize any institution in which one man essentially *owns* another as chattel property, as contrary to man’s dignity as a child of God, and thus an objective evil.

        Given however, the erstwhile existence of both institutions, I would agree that African-American slavery as it existed in the U.S. was typified by characteristics even more degrading and more dehumanizing to both master and slave than were true in medieval European serfdom.

        It’s a lot like asking which is worse: your daughter voluntarily entering prostitution in a brothel in Las Vegas which is regulated by the state, or your daughter being kidnapped and sold as a sex slave in a remote district controlled by drug cartels in Central America? Both are horrific, of course, and the very heart’s blood of any parent would turn to ice at the thought of either scenario. The only thought of any parent would immediately be: how may I rescue her? The clinical analysis would be that the girl herself would likely suffer much less in Las Vegas than in the other setting. But neither situation is “benevolent”, in the sense of conducing to her good in this life or in the next.

        • Peggy R

          Ok. Thanks for your reply. Then I suppose we agree that serfdom was not good for the common man any more than slavery was.

          Cheers! Happy New Year.

  • Confederate Papist

    Is anyone hungry? It’s lunchtime in sunny Florida!

    Just trying to lighten the tension….

    Happy New Year y’all!

    • Peggy R

      I’m eating as I surf and read the news…and run laundry. I am a slave here to my housekeeping.
      It’s not too bad here in St Louis MEtro. Only a dusting of snow earlier this week.

      Happy New Year!

      • Confederate Papist

        Happy New Year to you too. May we all continue to receive God’s blessings, and most importantly, realise we’re receiving them!

  • Teri

    From an article by Thomas Sowell
    “Young, inexperienced and unskilled workers are especially likely to find it harder to get a job when wage rates have been set higher than the value of their productivity”

    • David Davies

      Exactly. How do you gain experience and skill? Practice. Practice. Practice. Some people have even been known to propose to prospective employers that they will learn the job (practice) on their own time. To prove to the employer that they are responsible and trainable.

      And all this being said, there ARE jobs not worth doing. What cafe owner would pay his dishwasher to wash clean dishes?

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    I have been thinking about “Living on $9.00 per hour.”

    I certainly wouldn’t want to do that. It would be difficult to have much of a life, to feel that I had much of a future, to feel that I could face life’s emergencies (which often require substantial cash outlays – Medicaid pays for a hospital bill, but how do I pay for food and rent if I can’t work for several weeks? for example). Scary stuff.

    There would need to be something outside – something above and beyond – the workaday world of work and everyday life, to inspire me with hope and to keep me going if I were one of the working poor.

    I think people once had more of that inspiration, that sense of mission and purpose that superceded the here and now and the current “lifestyle”.

    The New England colonists essentially camped in and around what is today Plymouth, Mass, where they starved and froze to death for several years until they got the hang of living in wilderness conditions with much harsher, longer winters than what they were accustomed to in Old England. They built log cabins to live in. No indoor plumbing, no electricity. The era was still Late Medieval.

    And sixteen years after these people arrived on these shores, (1620) they established Harvard College (1636).

    Think about that.

    I think it is safe to say that these campers in a harsh and alien wilderness, living a substistence farming lifestyle, had priorities that were a little different from the priorities that many of us have today.

    I wonder whether the question of a man’s – a woman’s – a family’s – a community’s – priorities enter into the equation when we speak about wages and lifestyles? Even today.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    P.S. Re the New England colonists and Harvard: Although the indigenous peoples, the Native Americans, of the area were friendly and welcoming toward the English colonists, it was some time before the English felt convinced that the Natives’ friendly overtures were anything more than calculated and diplomatic. So many of the English colonists died during those first few years, substantially decreasing their number, that the colony leaders were concerned that the Natives should become aware of their rapidly dwindling number, especially of men in fighting trim. Many of the colonists who died, therefore, were buried in hidden graves, so as not to advertise the English losses.

    Children born during those years nevertheless were able to attend and graduate from Harvard, which their own families had helped to establish.

  • by the way, I do believe y’all are neglecting to consider a certain aspect of minimum wage laws. Union contracts typically do not specify wages of $X/hr, but $(minimum wage+Y)/hr. So the latest increases, from $5.15/hr to $7.25/hr gave the vast majority of hourly union employees a raise of $2.10 over the course of two years for which the unions did not have to negotiate. One effect (and I maintain that it is an intended effect) of increases in the statutory minimum wage is that it offers a payoff to the unions.

    Right near the end of Fr. Johannsen’s article, he mentions that most entry level fast-food workers in his area got wages about 1.4x the then-current minimum wage, which strongly suggests that minimum wage laws were not much affecting employment practices. But he rightly cites Hazlitt in saying that if the minimum wage is raised above a certain level, those whose work becomes unprofitable at such a wage wind up unemployed. Minimum wage laws have very disparate impact. I’d be interested in seeing unemployment statistics for black men about 16-25, single mothers, and the handicapped, through the recent increase in the minimum wage.

    Another set of factors that get lost in this debate are the other expenses involved in employing somebody. Ask a small business owner for the hourly labor cost of a minimum-wage employee; you’ll very likely find it’s at least $4-5 over the wages paid. Obamacare is likely to add another $5-10, at a wild guess.

    Another thing that gets ignored is the possibility of nonmonetary compensation. I used to work as a server; another kid I worked with took his wages from restaurant work and used them to pay tuition at a vocational school where he was learning auto mechanics. Why would it have been so horrible for him to have effectively apprenticed himself to an auto mechanic, trading his work for training from a more skilled member of the trade, letting him stop bussing tables and devoting his time to learning his craft? Because it would violate minimum wage laws?