Jonathan Zimmerman: The Religious Roots of the Minimum WageRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: religion, economics, minimum wage, Pope Benedict XVI, Tikkun
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale University Press).
Will raising the minimum wage put more money in the pockets of America’s working poor? Or will it have the opposite effect, throwing more poor people out of work?
That’s the question we ask whenever anyone proposes a hike in the minimum wage, as President Obama did in his State of the Union Address. But it’s also the wrong question, diverting us from the biggest one of all: what are the rights that we share as human beings?
Minimum-wage opponents say we all have the right to pursue our own happiness—and to maximize our self-interest—so long as we respect others’ right to do the same. Proponents counter that everyone has a right to certain necessities of life—food, clothing, and shelter—and that no one can be happy if some of us are deprived.
And the proponents have Pope Benedict XVI on their side....