Monday, April 13, 2009

Laborem Excercens - Worker Rights and Maximum Profit

John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens is devoted to the subject of human work, particularly with regard to man's work in modern society. In it he has this to say about the relationship of employees and profit:
The attainment of the worker's rights cannot however be doomed to be merely a result of economic systems which on a larger or smaller scale are guided chiefly by the criterion of maximum profit. On the contrary, it is respect for the objective rights of the worker-every kind of worker: manual or intellectual, industrial or agricultural, etc.-that must constitute the adequate and fundamental criterion for shaping the whole economy, both on the level of the individual society and State and within the whole of the world economic policy and of the systems of international relationships that derive from it. [LE 17; emphasis in original]
The reason why this is so is that economies are not ends in themselves; they exist for the good of the people whose commerce drives them. Similarly the goods of creation exist for the good of people, and it is a distortion of the order of things for "maximum profit" to be the principal goal of business.

On a related note, there are many irritating aspects of modern business that are oriented not toward real justice, but toward the satisfaction of procedural justice. The myth in view of those who establish such policies is that if procedures are followed uniformly then justice will be done. This is false to the extent that it has become the sole measure of whether justice is done. Justice cannot be identified with jumping through procedural hoops. Sadly, though, the average HR department seems to have reduced business obligations toward staff down to a matter of filling out the right forms at the right time.

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