What’s Wrong with Child Labor?

January 24, 2008 § 8 Comments

An interesting perspective from Inside Catholic.

Property, Slavery, and Godliness

January 18, 2008 § 3 Comments

I posted the following in a combox earlier today:

Another thing about slavery: slavery is just a particular and highly institutionalized instance of treating human beings as property. Human beings can be and often are treated as property without a formal institution of slavery, which doesn’t stop being evil simply in the jettisoning of its institutional character. And of course treating human beings as property is itself a species of treating human beings as things rather than persons. The servant-slave distinction as we understand it today hinges on exactly this: that the servant is treated as a person subject to a contingent earthly authority, while the slave is treated as nothing but an object the sole purpose of which is to provide utility.

I’ve argued (or at least asserted) in the past that even property shouldn’t be treated as property: that is, that our concept of property has become damaged by modern philosophy, which treats property as things subject to arbitrary will as opposed to things falling under legitimate jurisdiction in carrying out a mandate of stewardship. Modern people detest this idea, because modern people detest the idea that they cannot be God, and they especially detest the idea that they cannot be God even in little circumscribed “personal” domains.

Another thing that strikes me here is that to attempt to be a little tinpot God is to attempt to become the opposite of Christ. Because Christ is perfectly loving, perfectly giving, perfectly humble, incapable in virtue of His perfect goodness of treating a person as a thing. So in attempting to be like God in terms of the dominance of our will over some domain, we make ourselves the opposite of God.

Charity, Particularity, and Justice

January 17, 2008 § 7 Comments

One of the interesting dialectical pivot points in recent discussions we’ve had about employment discrimination is charity. At some point our Christian culture degenerated to the point where “charity” started to mean “acts which are nice to do but always optional”. Another thing which seems to have come along for the ride is that charity has become more abstract: the notion seems to be that charity is a marketplace selection of opportunities from which we can arbitrarily choose what we want.

In the discussion on natural obligations employers have toward the men providing for families who work for them, this has manifested in two ways.

The first way has been to treat the contingent obligation an employer has to provide for the basic dignity and needs of employees, and in turn the loyalty and diligence that an employee owes to his employer, as optional: as things not required as a matter of reciprocal justice, but rather as gratuitous and completely optional gifts.

The second way this notion has manifested itself is in the idea that charity (and therefore justice) is fungible: that there is no particular charitable obligation of employer to employee in justice but rather that the employer’s obligation is just to some abstract charity-in-general, an obligation (to the extent it is one at all: see the previous point) which can be discharged by giving to one of any number of charitable opportunities in a marketplace of opportunities.

Contra all this, it seems to me that while some acts of charity – indeed the best kind – are truly gratuitous, charity in general is not optional. In addition, many or perhaps even most obligations in charity arise in particular contexts; and particular obligations cannot be discharged by “giving at the office”. They have to be discharged here, now, in the context and connected to the actual persons with respect to whom they arose.

In short, the notion that charity and justice can be sawed into two utterly distinct realms is a false notion. And it is the height of foolishness to base our moral understandings and public policies on falsity.

(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong with the World)

Single People and Women Should Receive Less Pay For Equivalent Work

January 8, 2008 § 51 Comments

Treating people as things is where most evil starts, and employees are real people not things. As real people employees have human natures, and human nature isn’t Kantian universalism or Nietzschean will-to-power or whatever: human nature is social, human beings are raised by mothers and fathers in families, and not everyone is a father at all let alone is everyone equally a father all at the same time. To hire a father is to hire a person who has primary responsibility for materially providing for his family; such a hiring is a different kind of thing from hiring a teenager to mow the lawn or hiring an older mother with an empty nest looking for some extra cash to spend on the grandkids.

Employment as an institution which treats a father of five as a fungible productivity unit equivalent to a bachelor, or a single woman, or even a wife and mother, is a deliberate institutionalization of inhumanity. Deliberate institutionalization of inhumanity is a moral evil, so the institutionalization of equal pay for equal work is immoral.

That doesn’t imply that in every case a woman should make less money than a man, or any such risible extrapolation. It doesn’t mean that a family-man slacker should draw more pay than a diligent spinster. Human beings being what they are, exceptional circumstances are common and varied, judgement of individual circumstances is always required, and few things are more inhuman than “zero tolerance” categorical rules about the nuts and bolts of everyday life as actually lived.

But as some kind of categorical employment imperative backed by the force of law, the concept of equal pay for equal work is fundamentally inhuman and immoral. There is a basic difference between treating people as human beings with inherent dignity and treating them as interchangeable fungible productivity units, despite how amusing it is to say “fungible productivity unit”.

I understand the objections: it is presently illegal to hire and set pay based on marital status and children, it is difficult to get employers to do the right thing, if fathers are morally entitled to greater pay – a living wage – than those who do not have the garnering of a living wage as their natural duty, well, capitalism as presently consitituted is going to lock fathers out of the workplace, fragment jobs into contract work and piecemeal jobs, and hire the cheapest workers. I get all that.

So much the worse for how things are presently constituted.

(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong with the World)

UPDATE:
For anyone who is unaware of it, the Catechism reference for this is here:

2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.

(Emphasis mine).

Guns and the Pill

January 3, 2008 § 12 Comments

Hormone-regulating chemicals have legitimate uses, and also contraceptive and murderous uses. Firearms have legitimate uses, and also criminal and murderous uses. Since my temperament and intellectual leanings are racist sexist homophobic paternalistic authoritatian and downright medieval, I’m unreflectively inclined to regulate the misuse of either rather liberally, and disinclined to regulate either out of existence as mere physical objects.

That is all.

(This minor rant inspired by a Vox Nova post).

Where Am I?

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