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Raising wage has consequences too

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The silence from the living wage community had gone on for far too long, apparently, as even a South Bend resident felt the need to chime in. I don’t doubt Louis Myers’ good intentions, but his argument is plain sophistry. Mr. Myers calls for Notre Dame to pay its employees “at least a living wage, which would be about $12/hour now.” Two questions come to mind after reading this statement.

First, should we separate wages from earnings? Notre Dame employees, like other employees in a free society, earn their wages. We cannot dictate what one earns by circumventing the market wage.

The second involves a more alarming concern with minimum wage arguments. Myers includes the words “at least” when ordering what the administration should pay its workers. Is it not obvious that we have scarce resources in a society and, therefore, in a university? As William F. Buckley Jr. once said, “Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.”

I can only hope that those students calling for an increase in wages will not be the same ones up in arms when it forces further increases in the already astronomical tuition hikes. Instead of rallying behind Myers’ motivational effort, let’s think about what it is we are doing when we undermine basic economic principles. It is through flexible, not set, prices that capitalism functions most efficiently. That includes the price that an employer is willing to pay a given worker for his/her labor, and I have yet to see a worker chained to a buffet line or a mop bucket, so I can only assume that Notre Dame is offering the most competitive wages for the necessary skills.

Whether one likes it or not, Notre Dame must operate as a business – not to turn a profit, but to be responsible stewards of the students’ tuition dollars. There is nothing theologically sinful about adhering to the competitive, market-clearing wages already in place.

Brad Duffy


Fisher Hall

Jan. 23