Thursday, May 1, 2014

Atheist Economist vs.Christian Theologian on Minimum Wage Laws

A debate took place at Loyola University (New Orleans) between two colleagues, Dr. Walter Block and  Dr. Boyd Blundell, regarding minimum wage laws.

Rev. Larry Beane, "Father Hollywood" summarized the debate this way:
Dr. Walter Block  is an Economics professor, and Dr. Boyd Blundell  is a Theology professor.  Dr. Block, a free-market economist of the Austrian School, believes the minimum wage should be abolished, whereas Dr. Blundell believes it should be raised, and is sharply critical of the Austrian School and its libertarian underpinnings.

Dr. Blundell sets the tone of the debate early on by calling Dr. Block a "fundamentalist."  He posits that Block is opposed to any scientific inquiry or the use of statistics in Economics - an assertion which Block denies.

Part of the reason behind Block's critique of the minimum wage stems from his understanding of Economics.  Block believes Economics is a branch of logic, and he believes that as it is a social science rooted in human action, that certain axiomatic principles don't need statistical verification.  In other words, Block believes that some things are just plain true on their face and don't need to be proved.  They are economic law, and are as much a given as gravity.

Block doesn't oppose minimum wage because he's mean, he hates the poor, he has some rich crony buddies he wants to help get richer, or any of the other common assumptions and assertions as to why people would oppose the raising of the minimum wage.  Block's argument is that minimum wage legislation hurts the people it claims to help, by increasing unemployment among the poor.  He believes this is a self-evident truth based on the demand curve.

In a nutshell, the demand curve says that as something becomes more expensive, demand drops.  As something becomes cheaper, demand rises.  In the case of wages, if employers are required to pay workers more than their productivity, they will lose money.  And in order to stay in business, those workers who are paid more than their productivity warrants, will eventually be done away with - often through automation - and entry level jobs disappear.  And this hurts the poor in the long run.  Block cites examples of this phenomenon, such as the disappearance of elevator operators and service station attendants.

Blundell denies that this is the case when it comes to the price of labor, and he claims that there are studies which deny this relationship between minimum wage and unemployment.  Blundell claims that demand curves hold true for the cost of material goods, but fail in the realm of labor costs.  When Block points out the principle of the demand curve, and explains why studies in the real world are very hard to isolate direct correlation between shifts in unemployment and shifts in minimum wage, owing to the complexity and volatility of costs and prices (the real world is not a controlled laboratory after all), Blundell dismisses him as a "fundamentalist."
Read the rest of the summary here.

The entire two hour debate is below:


  1. There are only a few Christians that truly that serve and believe in the One Almighty God. Many serve or try to serve two gods. The God that they're told to sing to every Sunday, and the one that they're told to pay taxes because of Romans 13.

    There are only a few true atheists in this world. Dr. Block, Penn Jillette, Christopher Cantwell are some of the examples. All other atheists decry Christianity but say nothing of their god the state promoting certain beliefs and giving money to religious states and oligarchs. Many even believe just as liberal Christians do that the state should be adhered to even when it implementing bad laws.

    In the end, both have the same god.

    1. Paying taxes isn't disobeying God's commands. Government leaders are God's ministers (but not God's partners), and so they should be obeyed so long as they don't have you violating God's commands. So I get where you were going with that, but submitting to authorities isn't necessarily idolatry. Where it becomes a problem is when an ordinance is in conflict with God's commands and you submit to man's ordinance over God's.

    2. Like much of Christianity, it can be what ever you want it to be "render up to ceasar what is caesar's" What is Caesar's? nothing but the guys behind him with razor sharp swords glinting in the sun say otherwise.

    3. Exactly, Heath. Anon, didn't say taxation was the reason why the state is the church's other god. His point was that it is your god; it's just the one that you choose to serve.

      "Government leaders are God's ministers (but not God's partners), and so they should be obeyed so long as they don't have you violating God's commands." That makes no sense.
      How can they be His minister's but not partners? Are you making things up? But, they violate God's law all the time, yet you still follow them.

    4. No, the easy-believism "Christians" think Christianity can be whatever they want it to be. Some even go so far as to throw out the Bible because it contradicts their worldview. At some point, you cease to be a Christian. Even the devil believes in God.

      Regarding the passage about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, many a libertarian have mutilated this passage to try to support their view of taxation. Some even go so far as to dive into koiné Greek and etymology to attempt to explain it away; this practice is known as scripture twisting. It's fun for a little mental gymnastics, but it won't get you any closer to the truth that is simply printed on the page. It also handwaves other lessons in the Bible, which include the oft twisted Romans 13. This type of false-teaching was particularly notorious during the American Revolution, and there's much to be skeptical about in terms of how the revolutionaries conducted themselves.

      Saying Christianity fits into any earthly ideology is trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. With enough force, you may be able to drive the peg through that hole. But you'll destroy the peg in the process; what comes out the other side is nothing like the original. Theologians have been doing this for years, to the point where the early Christians would be deemed heretical today. Be a Berean as discussed in Acts 17:11, and you'll quickly find that many people spouting Bible verses in ideological movements miss the point entirely. Don't want to pay your taxes? That's your choice; we all have to face the consequences of our actions eventually. Just don't try to use the Bible as your justification when it clearly states otherwise in context. Don't be led astray by counterfeit "Christians" and false prophets.

    5. "What is Caesar's? nothing but the guys behind him with razor sharp swords glinting in the sun say otherwise."

      Exactly. Someone elses hard earned money is NOT Caesar's. PERIOD. End of story. How did it come to be "his"? Well, he got a lot of men to threaten other people with DEATH if they didn't hand it over.

      God's ministers? Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Diocletian....yeah. GREAT ministers he's got. You know, it's funny how people (Christian or not) will rationalize even the most evil and barbaric actions PROVIDED the person committing evil is a politician.

      I pay my taxes (and will continue to do so) because I have a gun pointed at my head. How is this different than a common thief breaking into my house to STEAL? "Though shalt not steal" (p.s. from God: Oh, unless he's a politician then it's ok). You people REALLY don't see a problem with this contradiction?

  2. Blundell got his head handed to him. LOL!

    For believing in the demand curve Block is the fundamentalist and you aren't Blundell? Excuse me? You believe in the immaculate conception, something which is IMPOSSIBLE to prove and you call Block a fundamentalist? Are you nuts, pal?

    Man.....the lengths some fools will go to, eh? Even at the expense of making themselves look completely idiotic.

  3. Theologians' interpretations are just as terrible regarding the economy as they are about the Bible. No surprise there. These are the same types of people who take a command about nonresistance to evil and turn it into the Just War Theory.

  4. I am always up for a good debate, but it looks like from reading the highlights that the primary argument of the theologian is to label Block a fundamentalist. What kind of argument is that? So what? That doesn't prove or disprove anything.

  5. Blundell denies that this is the case [that the supply of labor follows the demand curve) when it comes to the price of labor, and he claims that there are studies which deny this relationship between minimum wage and unemployment.

    Actually, there are no such studies. Blundell would be hard-pressed to present such studies. What there exist is a series of studies that purport to show that minimum wage hikes do not affect the aggregate unemployment rate, which represent the statistical equivalent of showing that painting my house a gaudy shade of pink does not affect the beauty of ALL neighborhoods in America, in the aggregate.

    Blundell claims that demand curves hold true for the cost of material goods, but fail in the realm of labor costs.

    Methinks the idiot has never heard of "full service [gas] station".

  6. This Orthodox Roman Catholic agrees with the atheist.

  7. I always like to insist that any debate with a statist begin with the NAP and our present day and ubiquitous basic laws and rules against murder, theft, rape, assault etc. I then ask the statist: When and how do/did these fail? What problem cannot be solved by currently existing notions of private property, prohibtions against assaults and enforcement of contracts? There is never a response, except for "racist racist racist" and "fringe fringe fringe".

    I guess that makes me a "fundamentalist". I guess that makes the theology professor a name-caller.