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Wages shouldn’t be based on ‘market’

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In the last few installments of Viewpoint I have twice come across the phrase “welfare agency” in regard to what Our Lady’s University would become – and ought not be – should it institute a living wage for its employees. The authors in question most certainly have used the phrase in a pejorative sense. This troubles me, and should trouble others as well.

Fully aware that I risk making unfair assumptions, I state that it seems to me that the authors who have used this term, and most who agree with them, likely are the same types who support “faith-based initiatives” rather than the bureaucratic statist welfare system. Is this – a living wage paid by a private, Catholic entity – not, in fact, the ultimate in faith-based initiatives?

More to the point, those who continue to attack the idea of a living wage on market-based arguments have underlying their views a fundamental misunderstanding – or ignorance – of the situation. Not only is Notre Dame not bound by market forces, but in a sense has an obligation not to act simply as the “market” dictates. Capitalism arose out of systems incongruent with and contrary to the Sacred Tradition of the Church. We can look, as Weber did, to the Protestant Reformation, to Calvin in particular, and we can look to the Enlightenment as the sources of capitalism and its equally materialistic sister, socialism. As an integral part of the Catholic world, the University, to the greatest extent possible, must react against, and serve as a force in opposition to, the dismal, materialistic ways of market-based economics. It ought to base its pay scale not on concepts of “supply” and “demand,” but on the intrinsic worth of every man and woman. That is the Catholic thing to do. Following market forces – particularly when this is unnecessary – only further separates man from his inherent dignity and worth.

Nathan OrigerseniorFisher HallFeb. 27