I agree with the vast majority of things that I read from emergent writers. However, more and more I find myself bothered by some lack of understanding, at least in my opinion, about some specific issues.
I’ve been reading Brennon Mannings “The Signature of Jesus” recently, and while I like the book, I’m having some difficulty with it. Like most emergent authors, Manning is an economic leftist. I can agree with a lot of things about the movement, but one thing I can’t stand is people talking about economics in moral terms, when they really don’t have a grasp on economics. For example, Manning mentions our buying goods made by people making low wages in other countries. He even goes so far as to say that maybe people in other countries whos goods we are buying should actually be making American minimum wage, but how we wouldn’t be able to afford our goods, and that the reason those people are working for such poor wages is because the big greedy corporations and all consuming americans just want to screw these people over. I’m sorry Mr. Manning, but economics is not quite that simple.
Wages aren’t set by a company who arbitrarily pays people low wages because they can. Wages are set by supply and demand, just like everything else in an economy. The reason they can pay people 50 cents a day in [insert african nation] is because there are a whole lot of people and not many jobs. When industry comes into an area, wages are set at a price where the supply of labor meets the demand for a job. If there are 50,000 people looking for a job, and I’m hiring 1000 people, I’m gonna hire the thousand people who will work for the least amount of money offerred. In a poor country, where 50 cents in american money goes a much longer way than it does here, wages can’t be as high as they are here. We used to be poor and charge low wages in this country when our workforce was much larger than the amount of jobs availible. We had immigrants pouring into this country from eastern europe, and factories that didnt’ have enough jobs for everyone. That drives down wages and it hurts people. However, when wages are low, and production is high, it enables companies to make a similar profit with a cheaper item. Cost of living goes down, so the low wages aren’t nearly as penalizing as they once were. Also, when companies become more profitable in these situations, they can hire more people, which means less people living in as dire poverty as once before.
What are these people in Africa doing before industry comes? They are sustinance farming, and they are dirt poor. When industry comes in, it offers them a chance to make money and if the money brings them more than farming does, they’ll take the jobs. Money enters the economy, poor people actually have a buying power, which causes more business to open, which in turn employs more people, which puts more money the the economy, etc etc etc, all the while allieviating the condition of the poor, who now have oppurtunity.
Just the same, many are pushing in this country for a higher minimum wage. Sure it sounds good on paper doesn’t it? All those fast food guys start making 7.15 an hour instead of 5.15…. but does it really help the poor. A very few of them it does, but if you’re looking for a utilitarian solution, this is not it.
When a company is forced to make its lowest wage 2 dollars higher, they will have to fire people. In order to keep profits to keep them in business, they will get rid of their least productive, least skilled workers (ie, poorer less educated people). Also, prices rise in order for the business to make a profit now with their increased labor costs, which make the poor who were making 5.15 an hour who now have no job, even less able to pay for goods that they need. Another factor that hurts the poor is how the higher wages will bring many unemployed upper middle class kids into the work force. Maybe they aren’t willing to work for 5.15, but 7.15 is enough incentive for them to get a job. Now, poor people are competing with middle and upper middle class white teenagers for work and if you believe that this country has some racist tendencies, you know that the kid with the polo shirt is gonna get the job before the kid with the fubu shirt.
If everyone took some basic economics classes, we’d get rid of these ridiculous “government trying to control the economy” policies, we would help the poor much more than we are now.
Besides all that, the kingdom of God isn’t a political, governmental kingdom. It is us. It is up to us to help the poor, not the government. If the government can do anything, it will do what is best for the economy, because thats what will help the poor the most.