Monday, February 08, 2016

The Minimum Wage, And Catholic Social Doctrine

I'll get right to the point: At the very moment when it is apparent that a full-time minimum wage job cannot support a person and his or her family, then the discussion in my opinion takes on a new moral urgency. We've been at that point for a significant amount of time in the United States. Most of the arguments against increases in the minimum wage are macroeconomic; that is, numerous bad effects result from increasing this fixed cost on businesses. But if an economic system cannot bear a just wage as defined above, the system is per se unjust, and should be changed.

Tax credits and other benefits should only be considered remedial, until something that meets the demands of justice is in place. The free exchange of goods and services that we call the market economy should only be in place to manage scarcity after access to basic goods and services is assured.

This may seem radical, but justice understood by the social doctrine is not simply desirable, but a moral imperative. If, as some claim, truly minimum wage jobs are held by the young and not working adults, then perhaps those claimants should support a two-tiered, age and experience discriminant minimum wage system. By supporting the present system, we risk perpetuating cycles of poverty. Countless jeremiads against the alleged substandard ethics of the working poor would have more resonance in a more just system.

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