What do businesses owe you?

The proposed Wal-Mart workers strike turned out to be a flop, with a minimal number of employees actually participating.  I think this failure is actually a good thing.  For one, it reassures me that the workers understand that in this economy, walking off a job isn’t smart.  But secondly, I think people also understand that the employee doesn’t give orders, the employer does.

Take a look at some of these photos from Wal-Mart protests (all photos via Democratic Underground):

I can understand the desire for high wages, healthcare, sick and vacation time.  I get it.  But those things aren’t free.  Wal-Mart is what is considered an entry-level working environment.  What I mean is they are low skill jobs which require little to no education.  The jobs aren’t high value jobs, economically speaking.  I’m not making a judgement on the workers, this has nothing to do with their value as human beings.  But the jobs they perform are not such that expensive healthcare, paid time off (even though I know they get sick and vacation time), or high salaries are apropos.

The protesters and employees in the photos above seem to be under the impression that Wal-Mart owes them more than the salary and benefits they were offered and which they accepted at their time of hire.

A lot of noise is made for the right to a living wage.  But what is a living wage?  Is it enough to just pay all your bills and feed your family?  Or is it enough to cover bills and have discretionary money for recreation?  Or is it all that plus enough to save or invest?  Perhaps it is all that and more.  But where do people get the idea that they can make these financial demands on their, or any employer?

This you owe me culture appears to be filling people’s heads with the idea that businesses are in business to provide people with jobs.  But not just a job, a well paying one with lots of goodies.  They figure: Well, the executives makes X millions a year and they don’t deserve it!  And here I am making $25k, I deserve more! 

I don’t understand this mentality at all.  I make a decent living, and the higher-ups make hundreds of thousands of dollars more than I. They do less actual work than I do, but I don’t begrudge them their higher salaries because I know they shoulder responsibilities I don’t have.  They have years of business experience and expertise I don’t.  And get this: my company has been posting losses for years.  Why is it that I can understand that even if their salaries were reduced significantly and spread equally among the other employees, it would have virtually zero impact on my bottom line.

Businesses are in business to make money first and foremost.  They are not charities, they do not exist for the purpose of providing jobs at wages you deem sufficient.  Be thankful you are employed.  If you think you deserve more money for the services you can provide, find a different job.  But in no way is your employer beholden to your demands.  There will someone walking in to apply as you are walking out.


  1. Two things:

    1. Higher-ups do NOT do less work than do you or any of us. First, the got there by doing all the work it takes to get in that position. Secondly, once you are at the top, your work doesn’t stop. It may be only “brain work,” but it is work nevertheless.

    2. Businesses only owe the employee what they promised the employee when they hired them. Nothing more, nothing less

    • Glenn

      I understand that the higher ups have in most cases, put in their time. But from my perspective brain work isn’t work. I consider physical labor work. I know there’s a lot of value in intellectual labor, but its not work. I don’t want to quibble over it because its not important to me.

      And number 2, I agree

      • So then you are saying that the 30 years I worked as an Air Traffic Controller wasn’t work?

        • Glenn, I sense you may be offended. I don’t want you to think that people who have jobs that aren’t work are lazy or don’t do anything. Its just my narrow definition of what work is.

          • Your definition is way too narrow. Without all the brain-work jobs there wouldn’t be any manual labor jobs! My 30 years ATC had no manual labor, but it was a very wearing occupation, and you had to be 100% alert 100% of the time. CPAs don’t do manual labor, but they really do a lot of work; engineers don’t do manual labor, but I know many of them who work very, very hard and long hours.

            People in “brain-work” occupations may do less manual labor than you do, but the work hard nevertheless. When you define it as not being work, you join the class warfare bunch.

            • Glenn you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill, especially when I’m not making a moral or value judgement on this issue.

              • No John, It is not.

                You are indeed making a judgment as to what is or is not work. Your statement in the comment is that these people do less work than you – that is a value judgment statement. Then your comment says that “brain work” is not work; only manual labor is work. That is a value judgment statement. The statements make “brain-work” of less value than manual labor.

                There was no need for you to make that statement in the original article; I’m sure you have many readers who do/did “brain work” for a living (not that we all haven’t done plenty of manual labor in other jobs, etc!), and to be told that isn’t real work is certain an affront to all of us.

              • I have always defended higher ups and CEO types for their salaries for the precise reason that intellectual labor and experience is more valuable than manual labor. Glenn, you are being way too sensitive on this and its misplaced.

              • Not sensitive, just making a point.

  2. Businesses owe the economies they exist within a roughly equal symbiotic relationship. If they are going to benefit from labour, they should pay their labour a fair wage. Just because someone will agree to work for $X per hour doesn’t make $X ethical compensation for the work performed. We have a minimum wage for a reason- because it is possible to find people to work for $2 an hour in the US. Does that make $2 an ethical compensation for the labour performed?
    If you answer “no”- and I hope you do (but I’m not banking on it)- then what ought to be an ethical amount of compensation? Some would say that it is a “living wage”, that every person who works full time in America ought to be able to afford to shelter, clothe, and feed themselves in a manner consistent with human dignity.

    • Assume a machine couldn’t put caps on pens before packaging. Is that job worth the vague undefined living wage? The job requires no skill or knowledge. However assembling an automobile which acutally requires skill and responsibility is worth a living wage. Please tell me how someone could reasonably demand high wages for menial tasks.

      The $2 per hour? It literally depends on the work. Remember, if no one agrees to work for $2 an hour and the company needs the job done in order to survive, they wouldn’t be able to offer $2 an hour. Occupations generally pay the least people are willing to accept to do the work. That’s how an economy works. When you regulate the money and work you end up with the USSR and Red China.

    • George and T,

      I was presuming a pure hypothetical economy. $2 an hour for an actual job is unethical because it is illegal, not because people “deserve” more. Remember there was a time in history when $2 an hour would have been considered good money, and it still is in some countries.

  3. John,

    I’m in some agreement with you, but I tend more to agree with George. He’s absolutely right that some people will work for $2-an-hour if that’s all they can find – and that isn’t ethical. The free market can decide wages only partially; there needs to be a minimum wage – precisely because people will work for next-to-nothing.

    With respect to your example, I agree. People should not demand high wages for menial jobs, but they are entitled to, as George says, a fair wage. But it is difficult to define. What is a fair or living wage? I certainly don’t know. Perhaps a percentage of the CEOs salary. Generally, I would say Wal-Mart workers should start at $10 and cap at $20.

  4. Two things:

    John, I was out and about and thought of two other good examples of hard workers who don’t do manual labor – teachers and pilots!

    Now, what I want to know is by what standard does anyone determine whether a wage is “ethical.” A person doing the hiring should have the right to pay what he wants; if people don’t want to work for the amount he offers, then he will have to offer more. The idea that the government should set minimum wage rules is socialist, and has done much to eliminate jobs. The market should determine wages.

    Minimum wage, although set by the Feds, really should be different based on the standard of living in the area where the occupation is. For example, the cost of living in large cities is much higher than the cost of living in rural areas. When I transferred from the Chicago area to the Cedar Rapids, IA area with the same pay, it was like getting a several thousand dollar pay raise because of what I could get for the same amount of money!

  5. Let’s not assume a hypothetical economy. Let’s assume your economy. There are people who are desperate to make money given the present state of the economy. Let’s assume that there are enough people willing to gut poultry for $2 an hour that a small scale farm could hire enough processors to keep up with supply and demand. Should they be able to pay that wage? I mean, people are willing to work for it, right?

    It is unethical because it is illegal? Why is $2 an hour illegal, John? Would $2 an hour be ethical on a Mississippi farm if there were no minimum wage laws? As Glenn said- why even have minimum wage laws? If laws make something ethical or not, why have laws at all? No laws= everything is ethical!

    I’m not saying every person in every country ought to be paid $12 an hour. That is a silly thing to even imply. But if it costs a Thai worker 30000 Baht per month to live with basic human dignity, then he ought to make around 174 Baht an hour- even though that translates to $5.67 US. In China, a person can live well above the poverty line for 5800 Yuan per month. This translates to about $532. So paying them 34 Yuan an hour (about $5.50 US) would suffice (half that in rural China, or $2.75).

  6. Glenn,

    It occurs to me that if the company is raking in billions of dollars in profits, it would be unethical to pay those employees, who make the business possible, a meager $2/hr.The only standard by which to judge this is sheer common sense and an appreciation for human dignity, as George said.

    The market cannot determine wages because it cannot determine an individual’s value. By setting a minimum wage, society is recognizing the inherent value of that person. If the company believes that person has greater value, they can pay more. Everyone should be given the benefit.

    Besides, sweatshop rates provide no incentive to work harder. If a company is unwilling to start someone off with wages that are at least semi reasonable, then there is no reason to believe the company will reward hard work.

    I agree that minimum wage should not be a blanket draped across the entire country. Cost of living differences should be taken into account.


    You’re plain wrong. Employees DESERVE more than $2/hr if the company is raking in billions in profits. Not only from a legal standpoint, but a moral standpoint. Employees make it possible for the company to rake in those billions.

    And I don’t understand the history lesson. At one time, bread was a nickle, refrigerators were $30, and a brand new Ford was $800. Times have changed.

    • Terrance,

      You made an arbitrary standard as to what is or is not ethical in wages. There can be millions of varied opinions as to what is ethical, so unless you can point to a standard of reference, the charge of unethical is invalid.

      The market should determine wages or else you have socialism. I prefer a free market.

    • Minimum wage laws are not about the value of the individual, it’s about the value of the work being done.

  7. Glenn,

    It is morally incumbent that society respect human dignity by setting a minimum standard of living, similar to the moral incumbency of society to respect human dignity by preserving life.

    That humans have value and worth is not arbitrary; it’s objective morality from God.

    • Terrance,
      The value you assign human dignity is arbitrary. One person’s minimum standard of living may be different from another’s. It is all relative and subjective. There is nothing in the Bible that dictates what a fair wage is.

  8. Glenn,

    Surely you agree humans have dignity, right? And surely you understand that no free society can claim to be moral if its citizens are not guaranteed a minimum standard of living that, at the very least, preserves their human dignity.

    No, there is nothing in the Bible about fair wages laws. But there is much in the Bible about the importance of human beings. We are worth much more than sewer rats – and should be treated accordingly. Your free market arguments could conceivably be used to justify sweatshop conditions in third-world nations.

    • Terrance,
      John makes the excellent point that human dignity is not tied to wages.

      Sweat shop conditions on prevail in socialist countries. In a free-market, they wouldn’t find it hard to get someone to work like that.

  9. Minimum wage laws are not about the value of the individual, it’s about the value of the work being done.

    I disagree. If society refuses to guarantee a person at least a minimum standard of living, then how much value does that life have? If the value of an individual is determined solely by the value of their work, then you have conceded the pro-abortion argument: that life has but transitory value.

    • Tell me, Terrance, if human dignity is tied to wages, then how much in wages does it take to give a person dignity? Who decides that? What arbitrary figure would be YOUR standard? Again, what one person may consider enough to give them dignity, another person might consider too much – or not enough!


  10. I disagree that minimum wage laws have nothing to do with the value of an individual, but for the sake of argument- let’s assume that it is strictly for work being done. Why would that amount be standardized? You gave the example of putting caps on pens. Let’s call that the minimum standard of what constitutes work. Why should someone who picks lettuce in 100 degree heat for hours make the same wage rate? Why should a person who cleans the toilets in Grand Central Station? If it has nothing to do with a standard of living or an ability to survive, why is the wage different state to state? Do some states value the same work differently?
    If we want to talk about the value of work being done, and different economies have divergent standards of living- what is so “socialist” about the value of a day’s work being enough healthy food for a day plus a roof over your head? Better still, why not that multiplied by 150%- since we want these people to choose to raise a family?
    I think that people who put in an honest day’s work have demonstrated that they take pride in being productive and contributing to society. I think that the least we can do is reward the kind of ethic we want to see with a living wage.

    • George,

      Again, a “living wage” is very subjective. I know people who have lived in austerity while raising five children, eating beans and rice and other cheap staples, with a house of about 1000 sq ft. And I know other people who say they could never live that way. Who gets to decide what a “living wage” is? If I consider a “living wage” to be $100K a year, how can an employer deny me that?

      Wages should certainly be tied to the work performed: the skills needed, the conditions, etc. If everyone has to pay a “living wage” determined by an arbitrary standard, then a brain surgeon and a field hand should make the same amount.

  11. This seems like a pretty serious conversation. I’ll just chip in a little. If there were enough people destitute enough that they would work for $2 an hour, the mean income in that society would be lower. As a result, cost of goods would also be lower (partly because such companies would be spending less and so can compete by reducing costs). I’m speaking as someone from a country with a much, much lower average income. Would $2 be an unethical wage in that society? Maybe. Maybe not. But it wouldn’t be as bad as paying $2 in the current US economy.

    I agree that a company owes its workers compensation based on the value of the work that they do for the company. But they don’t owe them a living wage. If all I did for work was cap pens, it would be unethical of me to demand that my employer pay me enough to feed myself and my family. If companies started paying people more than their work actually merits, they wouldn’t do very well. I do need the money to care for myself, but I can’t forcibly take it from someone else just because I need it.

  12. If there were enough people destitute enough that they would work for $2 an hour, the mean income in that society would be lower.

    What constitutes enough, in your mind? 300,000 people? 200,000? 50,000? 30,000? Can their be an acceptable number of destitute people lacking human dignity?

    The reality is that workers are a commodity to companies – and the company will bid the lowest price possible to secure that commodity.

    If all I did for work was cap pens, it would be unethical of me to demand that my employer pay me enough to feed myself and my family.

    Now you’re arguing that your time has little value. And since machines are unable to cap the pens (according to John), it seems your job is absolutely necessary in order for the company to sell pens and make money. Since your job is absolutely necessary for the company to stay afloat, why is it unethical to ask the company to pay you enough for YOU to stay afloat?

    Society has a moral responsibility to ensure that human dignity is not lost in this day-to-day business transaction. Otherwise, let’s go back to the Homestead days.

    • T

      It seems odd to me that we would correlate human value with how much money they earn, even if set by minimum wage. The economy fluctuates and so do the min wage laws. For example, say the min wage is $6.25 today, and made $6.85 tomorrow, was I worth less as a human today than tomorrow even though nothing really changed in the economy over the course of one day? What about when the legislature passes the bill on one day but it doesn’t go into effect for months?

      I just don’t see your wages as being tied to your value as a human. Even people who cheat illegals, they aren’t making a value judgement on the people. They just know they can get away with it.

  13. “only” prevail.

  14. John and Glenn,

    You both misunderstand my argument. It’s not that wages tie to human value, but that human dignity reflects human value. Employees allow companies to profit, so it is morally incumbent companies pay a wage capable of providing a minimum standard of human dignity.

    Employees are commodities, like it or not. And you must understand that companies will only bid higher in accordance with necessity. This is why I support minimum wage laws. Society has a responsibility to see that one’s humanity is not lost in a business transaction.

    To satisfy cost of living differences, the minimum wage should be different from place to place.

    We conservatives must understand that human value and dignity must extend beyond the womb.

  15. Glenn,

    Your argument seems to be that since we can’t really know what a true “living wage” is, we do nothing. Poor argument.

    • Terrance,
      No, what I’m saying is that, first, it is not the gov’t duty to legislate minimum wage. Especially the Fed gov’t because the Constitution does not allow it without practicing eisegesis with the document. Second, you are making an arbitrary standard and tying it to human dignity rather than the value of the work, which means in your scenario it would matter whether the person was a brain surgeon or a garbage collector–they have the same dignity value so therefore should have the same wage.

      But human value/dignity is NEVER tied to wages. If that is where one gets his value/dignity, then he is self-focused and looking at things totally wrong. The Bible says our value/dignity is intrinsic, because we are created in God’s image. It is tied to nothing else.

      Now you can theorize that doing things for people recognizes that dignity, but the person himself does not have dignity based on whether or not someone else recognizes that dignity.

      Again, a living wage is subjective and will be different depending on locations, etc. To make a blanket wage across the board is nothing but 100% socialism. The government should never mandate what an employer must pay in wages – that takes away from the employer’s dignity!

  16. Glenn,

    I don’t support federal government involvement. It should be left to the states to decide the minimum standard of living in their respective area.

    What is so arbitrary about believing that human beings are entitled to live in a manner consistent with human dignity? If someone betters themselves and earns way more money, like your surgeon, then great! But there should still be a floor past which no human being is allowed to descend.

    Human dignity is absolutely tied to wages if a person doesn’t make enough money to live in a manner consistent with human dignity. If he can’t feed himself, clothe himself, put a roof over his head, or keep the heat on in the winter, then something is seriously wrong with our supposedly “moral” society.

    I’m not talking about caring for people who go on spending sprees and lose their homes; I’m talking about enough money to provide essentials. Why do you have a problem with that?

    The bible also says to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Would you allow yourself to live in squalor? I didn’t think so.

    What practical purpose does human dignity have if its not recognized?

    I didn’t say we should have a blanket wage; I said it would be different location to location.

    • What is arbitrary is for someone to decide what that wage should be, someone who is a government official instead of the business owner who knows what things cost HIM and how he should be able to profit.

      The point of the whole post is whether or not a business owes you wages/benefits, etc beyond what you hired on for. The answer is, “NO!”

  17. Anyway, Glenn, you can have the last word.

  18. John what are you talking about “When you regulate the money and work you end up with the USSR and Red China”? Those places barley had wages to give to their workers because they weren’t actually Communist. And those medial tasks you’re taking about are un-ethical in themselves, no one should do one thing, repeatedly for their entire existence, that makes you mental or retarded if you’re lucky..
    Glen – why the fudge are you saying “it is not the gov’t duty to legislate minimum wage”? If the government isn’t going to legislate a minimum wage then who the fuck is supposed to make sure us or our kids aren’t all working for £2 an hour for some crazy omnipotent George Orwell shit. All the companies freeze wages at the lowest while politicians blitz their maximum expense allowances on top of their £60,000 salaries. How can you say that. How can you say “human value/dignity is NEVER tied to wages”, you can’t preach that stuff, capitalism functions solely on competition,, saying that our self value, dignity (so ego) is not related to our ascribed wage is crazy. If, like most people, you have to start from the bottom then it is impossible to strive to achieve more when there is no hope of advancement in any industry and this is why what’s going down is going down in the world right now.

    • Lauriehackney,
      Is there a reason you cannot communicate without foul language?

      If your dignity/value is tied to your wages, then you have a real problem. My dignity/value is tied to my being created in the image of God and am his adopted child. My dignity/value would be the same if I made $1 million a year or if I was a street bum..

      There is nowhere in the Constitution of the United States that allows the Federal Government to set a minimum wage. If you study a wee bit of history and economics you would learn that every time the minimum wage is raised, unemployment increases. Companies cannot afford to always pay what the government demands.

      Wages should be tied to the value of the work and not some arbitrary standard set by a millionaire in public office.

      Dictating salaries is socialism. Capitalism says let the market decide, and it worked for one heck of a long time before the gov’t started meddling.

    • Laurie

      The USSR’s and Red China’s people had next to no wages because the government regulated the money, the wages, and the jobs. The government kept people artifically poor. Thats what this administration is trying to do. Hyperinflating the currency and so it loses value, over taxing the wealthy and giving it to the poor by way of sicial programs. the attempt is to make everyone on the same level.

      • Because the government had all the money; they lived in palaces while their subject class lived in the dirt. that does not follow the regulations of any society apart from a autocratic dictatorship. That theory of hyperventilation is all well and dandy but its not quite working is it? Didn’t work for Germany didn’t work for Russia so it wont work for us

        • lauriehackney,

          GEE, guess what. All out politicians are millionaires – they have all the money!!! They don’t care about raising taxes because it really won’t affect them – they won’t notice the missing money.

          Your apparent lack of understanding of economic and politics demonstrates you aren’t as knowledgeable as you claim.

  19. My first time commenting here, although I have been reading the blog for some time. I have a question for those advocating the position that wages should reflect the value of the work done: Do you have an objective, non-arbitrary way of calculating the value of the work done?

    I’m asking this because Glenn said:

    Wages should be tied to the value of the work and not some arbitrary standard set by a millionaire in public office.

    It’s actually fairly easily for economists and statisticians to determine minimum wage levels. Note, I’m not saying that these levels are always correctly determined or implemented – that’s another issue. We have such things as consumer price indexes and other tools at our disposal. So those advocating that even menial labour should have a minimum value can take comfort from the fact that they have figures to back their theory.

    I’m asking what, if anything, the other side has.

    • Econocat

      That’s a good question. But the way a free market works doesn’t allow a fixed objective calculation for wages. However, it does have a non-arbitrary one: Supply and demand. If there is a glut of a particular trade skill, the value for the work is lower. This is why, for example, most who graduate from medical school go into a specialized field. When there are fewer people competing for a job either due to qualifications or interest, the wages are higher. When it’s something anyone can just walk into and do, with a steady demand to do the job, like retrieving grocery carts from parking lots, no one is going to pay very much to have that done.

      The market is by nature subjective. For example, my daughter asks all the time what she can do around the house to earn extra money. Sometimes she’ll suggest bringing up my laundry from the basement to my bedroom, and say she’ll do it for $2-3. I say, um.. no, because I don’t mind doing that, and it certainly isn’t worth $2 to save myself a trip down 13 steps. However, I might offer $5-8 for picking up the sticks in the back yard before I need to mow the lawn because I hate doing that myself, and it is worth it to me. Sometimes she even negotiates it with me. She’ll try to get $10. Nope, it’s not worth it to me. But maybe $7. Even here though it fluctuates. If it’s hotter out, I might be willing to give her a little more because it becomes that much more worth it to me to have someone else do it. Winter is the same. I might let her shovel the 12′ walkway for $10 because I hate shoveling snow. The more snow there is, the more she might be able to negotiate. The less there is, say if it doesn’t really need to be done, she’ll get less.

      In each case there is no minimum wage for her extra jobs. Each instance is negotiated based on the labor supply (how willing she is to do the job) and the demand (the degree to which I’d rather not do the task myself).

  20. glenn
    not all politicians are millionaires are millionairess. The ones that take advantage of their power are, most politicians sallaries are ridiculous but they are nothing compared to the amounts of owed by conglomerate companies like Apple and Topshop. although this is irrelevant from the subject, I do read ad have some knowledge of history but this is not a claim to superior ability of knowledge, simply a different perspective from yours.
    In reply to you’re other comment, there is a reason i blaspheme, because I like to ad it expresses the extremity of my opinions. you ca say that you can live in a ditch your whole life ad retain some value in yourself because that is “i the image of god”. fine. But most of the people these days do not have that belief to pull them from the bottom of a society where self worth is measured in your income rather that your moral richness give to you by your god. It does’t matter who is dictating salaries because they never meet everyone’s expectations, ad that’s human nature. to want more. I’m not providing a solution i’m just interested in how you can accept that these “Companies cannot afford to always pay what the government demands.” when their owners are spending millions on luxuries. Capitalism is based o calvinism, which dictates that money made should go back into the business, thus creating jobs. These guys are to scared to invest any more and just hide away while everyone else waits for Armageddon

  21. Diane,
    Most politicians in Washington are millionaires, and not by the congressional salary. Even those who are not millionaires make more in one year that would take me at least 10 years to earn. The point is that these super rich people don’t feel much when they have to pay taxes – to them it is a drop in the bucket. With the average joe, it is a big chunk of our earnings!

    When I mentioned your foul language, blasphemy is just a minor part. Your use of “F…” and scatological terms, e.g., are totally unnecessary and do not add any emphasis except to emphasize that you don’t have a good command of the language. I took a look at your site and decided it wasn’t worth wading through the filthy language.

    When I was a teen, long before I was a Christian, I lived in a federal housing project where I was beat up by Mexicans on an almost daily basis. Food was mostly gross stuff from the commissary prepared by a step-mother who burned water (which kept me quite skinny), and I wore tattered and worn-out clothes to school, etc. I never felt my dignity or value as a human was lessened by my conditions. Those people who believe that are placing their dignity and value on the wrong things. But then, if you spend your life being taught that you are nothing but random cells somehow collected to take on life, originating as pond scum with no intrinsic value, with no hope of anything after this life, then I guess their dignity would be tied to money. Even as a non-Christian I didn’t believe in that evolution crap because it was totally illogical, and I assumed there was some sort of God, so I guess just knowing that (Romans 1 tells us that everyone knows it but most suppress that knowledge) gave me understanding that life in and of itself has dignity value which isn’t based on our financial status.

    Oh, and by the way, Capitalism is NOT based on Calvinism. Such a claim as that demonstrates your lack of understanding of basic theology, let alone the false teachings of Calvin.

  22. Dude why are you just denouncing what I say? Basic Calvinist theology is that only the ‘Elect’ who prosper economically, will go to heaven, as everyone one is born into sin. at least reply with some of your own knowledge on the subject rather than just telling me I am wrong you nub. Sara Diamond explained; “One of the basic works of sociology, Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, links the rise of Calvinism to the needs of budding capitalists to judge their own economic success as a sign of their preordained salvation. The rising popularity of Calvinism coincided with the consolidation of the capitalist economic system. Calvinists justified their accumulation of wealth, even at the expense of others, on the grounds that they were somehow destined to prosper. It is no surprise that such notions still find resonance within the Christian Right which champions capitalism and all its attendant inequalities.”

    • Diane,
      Well, I guess I’ve missed something about Calvinist theology, because I’ve never heard before that only the elect prosper. That is so easily disproved by looking at all the non-believing, non-elect millionaires!

      I have very good knowledge of what Calvinism teaches, and just because some author or Calvinist teacher claims it is Calvinism vs Christianity which has the work ethic, etc, that doesn’t make it true.

      If Calvinism teaches what you claim, then it is even more evil than I thought! But I do not see this in Calvinist doctrine, and it appears to be just claims of some Calvinists. There is no biblical justification for such claims.

      Everywhere in the O.T. and the N.T. the responsibility of the individual is to work and provide for himself, and that is the basis of Capitalism. Even Paul said if a man will not work he shall not eat. Socialism makes every one work for the common good, vs one’s own good.

      • well just look it up because he believed that God only predestined a few elect to enjoy eternal salvation while the rest (what he called the Reprobates or something) would get everlasting damnation! So according to that you don’t even have to live a religous life to attain your salvation you just have to hope god chose you.
        I don’t believe in any of this kack one bit btw.
        You obviously don’t, these people aren’t just random internet preechers like you, they’re renowned and respected sociologists. My friend most things today, discovered centuries back have developed into something evil. You can’t however argue that Calvin didn’t teach predestination, which is the basis of the capitalist system, that some people have a devine right to be at the top while the rest scrabble for some salvation at the bottom. well if Paul is so right then how come business owners of the western world do no work at all and still mannage to eat horrendous amonts of food their whole lives?

        • Laurie,
          I’m fully aware of what Calvinism teaches doctrinally/theologically, and it is totally unbiblical.

          The point is, whether or not Calvinist claim only the elect should prosper, the ideology is not mainstream Christian. Mainstream Christian ideology is that EVERYONE, elect and non-elect, has the responsibility to work and earn money. One has the responsibility to do the best they can – a work ethic. And THAT is the root of capitalism. The root of socialism is class warfare and if you make more than someone else, they you have to share with the lazy bums of the world.

          Calvinism is NOT the root of capitalism. The Judeo-Christian belief system is. IT was Jews and then the Christians who taught the work ethic.

  23. John, the example of you and your daughter is not a good example of economics at work in the real world. Firstly, your daughter does not have a stake in the work, meaning that she does not depend on it for her day to day needs. And on the demand side, I assume you have an interest in her that the pen manufacturer would not have in the pen-capper (“The less there is, say if it doesn’t really need to be done, she’ll get less” – you socialist you!). The classical economic theory of thousands of small firms, negotiating constantly with individual job-seekers on a daily basis, with wages guided by the “invisible hand” is pie in the sky; it functions in much the same way as the pure command economy – only in the minds of its ideological creators.
    But let’s explore your example anyway – what is the starting point for the negotiation? Why do you offer $7 for yard work, and not 70 cents? You’ve mentioned that this is what it’s worth to you not to have to do it yourself, but again, where does that come from? Is it just a feeling, or is it maybe based on what you consider to be a reasonable standard of living? And the pen manufacturer – how does he determine what to offer the pen capper? How does he determine what it’s worth to him? Glenn’s comment of “….the business owner who knows what things cost HIM and how he should be able to profit” doesn’t appear to allow for a supply curve.

    I’m aware this is a bit off topic. For the record, I agree that a business does not owe an individual any more than has been agreed, but this agreement needs to be based on an equal measure of market power between the parties involved. I’m actually more in favour of government assistance for working families (such as Ireland’s Family Income Supplement, which you are only eligible for if you work more than a certain number of hours per week, and support a family) than a minimum wage, as I believe this produces the correct economic response from both the demand and supply sides of the economy.

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