24 Jun

Do the arithmetic, Your Grace

1 + 1 = 2; 2 + 1 = 3; 2 + 2 = 4…….

The Archbishop of York is outraged by the fact that there are so many of what he describes as “working poor.” He is talking about low pay. He says men should not live by the minimum wage alone but should instead receive 20% more than that basic stipend in the form of “a living wage.”

“Should” is an interesting word, necessarily implying a moral judgement. But morality, if it is to mean anything, must be located in the world of facts and practical results. Moreover, every “should” also implies a responsibi9ity: who should? In this case the responsibility is clearly with the employers, those who pay the wages. I am sure the employers are grateful for the gift of the Archbishop’s superior moral insights and to be elevated, if only temporarily, on to his higher ethical plane. But let us come down to earth just for a moment and consider likely consequences. These are far removed from what obtains on the Church of England’s socialist fantasy island.

The employer needs to balance his books and to make a profit in order to sustain his business. Thus he calculates costs – including the amount he can reckon economically to pay in wages. If, in accordance with Dr Sentamu’s blue sky utopianism and infinite kindness, he is suddenly required to pay 20% over the odds, then (I suggest) in the real world one of two sets of consequences will follow: either he will employ fewer workers or his business will become unprofitable owing to the additional costs and it will fail. Then all will be out of work

Does the Archbishop intend either of these outcomes? Is it not better that more are employed even on low wages than that some are sacked to increase the wages of some others? Is it not preferable, on the whole, that companies stay in business?

But I am talking about the real world and not the C. of E’s. economic neverland