Signs and Wonders
Pope Francis
Associated Press/Photo by Gregorio Borgia
Pope Francis

Signs and Wonders: Pope Francis weighs in on capitalism


Pope misfires. I don’t want to get in a shouting match with Pope Francis or the 1 billion Catholics on the planet, but his 55-page “apostolic exhortation” on economic issues leaves many of us scratching our heads. His warnings against unbridled capitalism are well-intentioned and necessary, but I would have preferred that he stick to exhortations against greed and covetousness. All of us, capitalists and everyone else, need to be reminded that the love of money is the root of all evil. But the mere accumulation of money, if it happens as a by-product of creativity and innovation and thrift and prudence, is not evil. The idea that income inequality is wrong, per se, is simply not a position that can be supported biblically. We are all created equal before God in that we are all created Imago Dei, in the image of God. But each of us is different, and—ironically—in almost every other area of life we celebrate that diversity. We would think someone ridiculous, or perhaps even insane, if he said, “Usain Bolt should be forbidden from running fast or Michael Phelps should be forbidden from swimming fast or Tiger Woods should be forbidden from shooting under par because their excellence makes it impossible for me to make a living as a runner, swimmer, or golfer.” Instead, we marvel at the gifts of great athletes, or great artists, even though their excellence means that most of us have little chance of success against them. Why should entrepreneurship be treated differently? For a healthy and needed perspective on the pope’s missive, I commend to you the video below by Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute.

iPad apocalypse. We first told you back in the summer about the plans of the Los Angeles School District to purchase iPads for students there. The total purchase, now in excess of $30 million, is proving to be the disaster we predicted it would be. The kids quickly figured out a way around all the security and filtering measures installed on the devices designed to keep them from games, social media, and other sites. Connectivity problems have been massive, as hundreds of students and their tablets now completely overwhelm the bandwidth at most schools. A new survey of faculty there says that 75 percent of teachers report connectivity problems. These problems prevent many teachers from being able to count on being able to use the devices in the classroom.

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Minimum wage misunderstanding. Steve Coll, a columnist for The New Yorker and one of the country’s hot, “brand name” journalists, is calling for a hike in the minimum wage. SeaTac, the town surrounding Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, recently raised the minimum wage there to $15, a move that will affect all airport workers (and everyone who flies in and out of SeaTac). These developments are just two of what is beginning to look like increased efforts to raise the minimum wage nationwide, which would be a bad idea for poor people and a bad idea for the economy. To understand why, consider this: If raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is better than $10 per hour, then why not $20 or $30 or $300 per hour? The answer is obvious: If the minimum wage was $300 per hour (or, for that matter $15 per hour), employers would simply choose not to hire entry-level workers. Those most in need of experience and a job would be the hardest hit. The minimum wage is essentially a wage-and-price control, which history has proven to be its own well-researched brand of folly. For a more complete argument against a hike in the minimum wage, I recommend this piece from Commentary Magazine by my friend Ryan Anderson.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren is vice president of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.


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