Labor Day Reflections, A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

Labor unions are typically justified as a means of raising the wages of workers. According to this view, workers individually lack the bargaining power necessary to negotiate a decent wage, but by banding together they can increase their bargaining power and gain a higher wage at the expense of Capital.

The perspective of neoclassical economics on this issue is a little different. Neoclassical economists wouldn’t deny that the above story could be true for individual cases, at least in the short term. What they would deny, however, is that unions can raise the real wages of workers generally or over the long term. This is because unions ultimately benefit their members not at the expense of Capital but at the expense of other workers. It’s true that when a union shop wins a wage increase above the market rate this will initially be paid by employers. But according to the neoclassical picture this increase will ultimately be offset either by higher prices or by lower employment (as paying the increased wages leads marginal firms to either go out of business, cut back their workforce, etc.) Since each union benefits its own members at the expense of everyone else, unionizing all workers would result not in higher wages for workers generally, but would lead to the individual gains of each worker being more than offset by the higher prices and lower growth caused by the unionization of everyone else.

Which perspective is right? A few months ago the blogger/economist Tino from SuperEconomy compared the share of workers covered by collective bargaining agreements with Labor’s share of GDP. If the pro-union perspective is correct, and unions lead to higher wages at the expense of Capital, then labor ought to have a higher share of income in countries with more unionization. If the neoclassical picture is correct, by contrast, and unions benefit some workers at the expense of others, then the correlation between unionization and labor’s share of income ought to be small if not nonexistent.

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A Secular Argument Against Gay Marriage

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

wedding rings1

by Joe Hargrave

Recently Kyle Cupp at Vox Nova (one of the good ones, he is) addressed the arguments of a Peter Sunderman at The American Scene regarding the validity of arguments against gay marriage. In brief, Sunderman doesn’t really believe there are any. Instead opposition to gay marriage, even his own, is motivated by a vague “intuition” that cannot find adequate manifestation in any rational argument. While Kyle unfortunately appears to agree with Sunderman, I do not.

Let us first be clear that the case for traditional marriage between one man and one woman is already more than amply made. As Kyle points out, gay marriage advocates such as Andrew Sullivan are willing to acknowledge all of the great and useful aspects of traditional marriage. What they maintain is that opponents of gay marriage have not demonstrated how its legal recognition will harm traditional marriage.

I have never been the greatest adherent of the notion that “the law instructs.” Oftentimes I believe laws merely reflect shifting economic and cultural trends, often playing catch-up after the fact. In the case of homosexual unions, however, any act that places them on the same level as traditional unions will necessarily send a message to everyone in society, including children, that it is a matter of indifference whether one marries a person of the same sex or of the opposite sex.  And it must be mentioned here that in the face of declining Western birth rates, the case for traditional marriage is stronger than it has ever been. Contrary to overpopulation hysteria, which I suppose some will want to debate over, developed countries need more children, and they need them now. It is hard to see how the problem of declining birth rates will be addressed by a society that is indifferent to sexual behavior.

With that said, let us now make the easiest case against gay marriage.

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Xenophobia, Patriphobia and the Ground Zero Mosque

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate has been interesting.  The vast majority of Americans oppose it, while about a third of Americans support the building of the mosque.  This issue has been debated quite a bit on this blog, and my opposition to the mosque is set forth in my post Cynical Brilliance which may be read here.  The debate has raged around the internet, much of it merely repeating the same points ad nauseum.  One of the more original contributions is that of Professor Carson Holloway at Public Discourse:

Liberal patriphobia also arises in part from liberals’ sensitivity to the historical traumas that have been inflicted on the human race through a disordered love of one’s own. In the European experience, Nazism and Fascism stand as sobering reminders of the enormous criminality that has been done in the name of a perverted patriotism. In America, the historical crime of slavery was initiated and defended on the basis of whites’ definition of Africans as alien and other, and hence as not possessed of any rights that demanded respect. Liberals are correct to be mindful of such injustices, sensitive to their causes, and alert to avoiding their recurrence. They err, however, in laying the blame for such crimes entirely at the feet of the love of one’s own as such. The real culprit is the excess of the love of one’s own, not to say an insanely inflated version of it. As St. Augustine remarked, the abuse of a thing does not take away its use; and it would be no less foolish to abandon the love of one’s own because of the excesses of nationalism than it would be to abandon erotic love because of crimes of jealousy.

Although well-intentioned in its origins, liberal patriphobia should be rejected as incoherent and morally dangerous. It is incoherent because it is what C.S. Lewis called, in The Abolition of Man, a mere moral innovation—that is, a novel teaching that rejects important portions of the moral tradition of the human race on which it is nevertheless silently parasitic. This was, in fact, Lewis’s criticism of Nazism. It wrenched from traditional morality the universally accepted principle that a man must love and serve his country, while at the same time it abandoned the equally venerable claim that justice requires that we respect the rights of all men, even those of foreign nationality. Modern liberalism simply reverses this error, denying that a man may especially cherish his countrymen while groundlessly insisting that he love the whole human race. In fact, modern liberalism learned its love for humanity from a traditional morality that also taught a heightened love for one’s own. If one principle is to be rejected, then both are groundless. If one is to be retained, then both have authority. Read the rest of this entry »

As The September 11 Anniversary Nears, A Review Of Al Qaeda’s Little Reported-On War Against The Catholic Church

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

While most of the world mourns the nearly three thousand who were brutally murdered by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, many assume all of Al Qaeda attacks stem from a warped political motive. Most may not be aware that since the day of its inception many of Al Qaeda’s targets have involved the Catholic Church and her holy sites.

Less than one year before the September 11, 2001 attacks Al Qaeda was planning a spectacular Christmas attack at the large and historic Strasbourg Cathedral in France. While this attack was foiled, an attack on the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia was not thwarted, resulting in the deaths of several churchgoers and those on a nearby street.

Yet, five years before this brazen plan, an even more sinister plan was nearly carried out by the chief planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, which he coordinated to coincide with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Manila for World Youth Day in January of 1995. The plan called for the pontiff to be killed along with countless of the faithful who was planning to see him in Manila that day. Incidentally, some speculate that the crowd that came to see the Polish pontiff that day was nearly the same size that came to see his funeral some ten years later. Some speculate it may have been the largest religious gathering at one place in our known history, some five to seven million strong.

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