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How binding are Economic Laws

I want to respond to a major criticism laid my way in full. During a debate over the relative merit of living wage laws, I made the following points.

1) living wage laws have massive negative externalities associated with them (ie they create unemployment).
2) Supporting living wage laws do not make much sense when you consider that there are alternatives such as the earned income tax credit which deliver similar benefits at a lower cost.

This point was met with both acceptance and derision. I want to focus on the detractors. There are two counter arguments laid my way and I will respond to them sequentially.

The first skeptic called into question the validity of my economic analysis. He says,

""The economic effects of just wages do not proceed the way gravity proceeds from matter. They depend on further human choices about how to use our money. Social-scientific "laws" like supply and demand are not meaningless, but neither are they the same sort of thing as, say, physical laws. Social-scientific critiques of Catholic doctrine need to take this into account, and more broadly they need to take into account that popes from Leo to John Paul have been calling for a comprehensive reformation of culture, of which wage justice would be but a - necessary - part."

I will abbreviate my response as follows
1) The extent to which arbitrary controls on the wage rate effect unemployment can be empirically quantified. Almost all empirical studies show a strong negative effect on unemployment. The effect mentioned above IS taking place, regardless of any philisophical critique of the law's in question
2) While it may be true that the laws of economics are not the laws of gravity, it is absolutely true that the laws of economics illustrate incentives, and incentives are a huge factor in any decision making. Ignoring incentives is asking for major trouble.

After that argument was critiqued, my catholicism was called into question. I quote my detractor in full:

"Popes aren't economists. They're popes, which means they teach the faith. If A pope teaches something that touches on economics, it is then up to Catholic economists to integrate that teaching into their work and to work out its reasons and its applications. Just as it's a theologian's or philosopher's job to do the same. If you aren't doing that, then you have a bad case of faith/reason separation and perhaps should seek to be more docile to the teaching of the Church"

After this people jumped to my defense (thankie). I will quote one person before offering my response

"Um, Tom, I don't want to speak for Festa here but I have a feeling that even if he becomes as docile as Bambi to the teaching of the church, minimum wage laws will still be price floors, and scarcity (in this case of employment) will be exacerbated.
(I note only in passing that the current Pope has nice things to say - with qualifications, of course - about the ability of the market to help the poor).
And there's old Festa, trying to reconcile the data while you question his committment to Catholic teaching. I know! Let's all chant "Living wage, living wage" and that'll help the poor! Festa, give up now, bud! As long as we all chant living wage your empirical evidence counts for nothing."

My response: my opposition to a living wage law does also mean I am in opposition to the stated objectives of Catholic social thought. The end goal here is to alleviate poverty and create a just working environment for the poor. This environment, as the Church correctly states, should include an adequate wage. Living wage laws, however, do not achieve the stated objective the Church is asking for. As a Catholic economist, I must deal with that and find some other way to achieve the objective I am called to achieve.

This "some other way" is much more complicated than any simple law or any two bit sound bite, which is probably why it encounters so much opposition. But let me at least offer a few alternatives.

1) The earned income tax credit, provides income to the poor
2) improved education-the best way to increase income for the poor is to increase their level of education. All the evidence shows that the more education one has the more potential income they can earn. Education reform is a must, though it is hard. The money saved from the negative effects of the living wage laws should be used to helping the poor achieve this objective (possibly through some sort of scholarship fund, voucher plan, or school reform
3) Crime must be brought under control. Businesses do not go where crime is high.
4) The breakdown of the family structure must be reversed.

But to advocate for such policies is to implicitly admit that the solution is no where near at hand. To complicate this issue even more, I readily admit that I am probably missing 6 or 7 thousand other points, all of which require unique and often difficult solutions.

However, I am called to nothing less.