My Boss and Capitalism

Tim Stanley has today written a neat little piece on Pope Francis's exhortation. Well worth reading. I don't have a big axe to grind against capitalism.

I work in a cafe in Brighton. My boss pays me not very much an hour. I think its just above the national minimum wage. I have no formal contract, so I cannot even speak of a 'zero hours contract'. There are no formal contracts for any of his employees.

He doesn't give sick pay to any of his employees. He doesn't give holiday pay to any of his employees and I guess if one of them needed it, there would be no maternity pay either. I am employed to work when he wants me or the cafe needs extra assistance. I am on a rota, but if the weather is bad they call me up and say, 'We don't need you today'. Well, I never know what the weather's really going to do, so I'm really his slave.

Meanwhile, he makes a lot of money, so I hear. Apparently, he's doing really well.

I ask you: Is the problem with this arrangement capitalism, or is my boss just a ****er?

I would sooner that my boss was free to run a cafe and screw his employees over in the process (which is, on the face of it, what he does, though we are all 'grateful for the work in these times of austerity') and get rich, than the State take over his cafe and run EVERYTHING, including cafes.

Yes, I know there are laws that cover this, but ultimately, it is catering and nobody at my workplace feels they can do anything about it because he can just find someone else who will do it his way. Let's face it, if he sacked us, he could always find some Polish workers or other immigrants who would probably be only happy to work in similar conditions.

I don't think I believe in 'structural sin' and its pretty recent for the Church to become obsessed with changing 'sinful' structures in society. Strange that at the same time, unjust laws, such as on abortion received less notice from Bishops. There is an element in the Pope's recent exhortation that focuses on the sinful 'structures' in society and capitalism, politics, etc, etc. We have heard so much of this recently from Bishops Conferences. I don't like it, though I do understand that as long as you talk about sinful 'structures' in society, people will believe you are relevant and nobody will be offended, because as long as the sin belongs to a structure than to people, then nobody will repent because the structures need to repent or undergo a 'conversion' the papacy, for instance...though I must confess I, unlike Bobby Mickens and Tina Beattie, did not hitherto understand the papacy to be a gross human evil blighting the Church and the World.

What I'm considering doing, however, is soon approaching my employer and saying something along the lines of this:

"Look, you make loads of cash out of this cafe and you don't even give your staff a decent wage for our work, nor a contract, nor much else. Meanwhile, as well as robbing your staff of their basic working rights (I hate the word 'entitlements') this is a lovely cafe which could feed the homeless once a week in the evening, since it would amount to only a small percentage of the massive profit I am told you make out of this joint, and yet you still won't give water to customers in the summer for free, claiming that the water is off, when its not, even though you are minted because you are that stingy! Oh...and Jesus and Mary love you! Have you thought of coming back to Holy Mother Church full-time?"

I think that's what St Anthony of Padua would do. By the way, this man is a Catholic!

Now, if you just extend this to multinational corporations, I think you'll get the gist that all companies are full of people just like my boss is a person, not a structure. The problem is not necessarily the corporations, yet I guess you don't get to the top without stepping on a few toes. The problem is people who work within them responsible for their company's rampant and ruthless activity, especially owners, with little time it seems to see to the examination of their consciences. I do not, for instance, believe that 'Primark' are evil. I do believe that there exist senior figures within Primark who are a bit like my manager only more so. The problem is Original Sin and unless the Holy Father has done away with it (and I do not believe he can) these kind of problems will always persist. In other words, 'The poor you have with you always.' People will always screw other people over for a bit of extra cash, so what can we do?

We cannot make avarice illegal without reverting to State control of everything. We can preach Christ Crucified. He conquers hearts, not institutions or structures. Preach repentance. Preach on the evil of avarice and how many souls end up in Hell because they loved money too much and worshipped it as their God while starving or neglecting the poor or refusing to acknowledge the labour of their workers with generosity. Jesus is Lord and Saviour and forgives every sin of every person who desires His forgiveness. He wants to change us. Jesus changes people's lives, not the lives of structures. Jesus cannot forgive 'structures' or 'systems'. He cares how you treat your employees and He will see justice done for the poor.

People forget that the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is about a spiritual as well as moral reality. One of these guys goes to Heaven and one goes to Hell. Both destinations are everlasting. Christ maintained that how we treat the poor had not just effects which are temporal (poverty, suffering, hunger) for the poor, but eternal (damnation) for the rich! Unfortunately, I don't really pick up too much about Eternal Life or repentance in this exhortation. We all need repentance.

If you want to save your soul, as a Catholic, be generous, be kind, be forgiving and loving. If you have employees, treat them well! It is not rocket science. Jesus cares how we treat others - our neighbour. It is not about creating an earthly paradise of justice, peace, brotherhood and love, though this is a wonderful potential benefit of the primary reason for our existence - the Salvation of our souls through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This life is ultimately about saving your immortal soul. It is the choice between Jesus and Eternal Life or the Devil and Eternal Death. It is the choice between vice and virtue, Life or Death, avarice or liberality. The idolatry of money is obviously an issue for my boss. It's probably an issue for me. Avarice is a deadly sin, but it is a sin that belongs to people, not structures. It requires individual conversion to Jesus Christ to overcome it, like Pride, Lust and all of them. No sin can be conquered by the State. Jesus, it is He, who has conquered sin and death. He alone can lead us to the true liberty of the children of God. Say a prayer for my boss. He shares the same name as our Supreme Pontiff, though now that the papacy is to undergo a conversion, for how long a Pontiff is to be Supreme is now anybody's guess.

I believe in "trickle-down theory", but it seems obvious to me that it is people, not structures that do not desire money to necessarily "trickle down". St Francis of Assisi preached to people, not institutions. He preached repentance to people, not structures. He preached a relationship with Jesus Christ that leads to Eternal Life, not a vision of communitarianism for its own end, though I would never suggest this is the Holy Father's idea of Catholic Social Teaching. We will all die. We will all be judged. Our Lady had the Beatific Vision before her eyes at all times and I expect she was very, very kind to the poor. For Catholics, this is surely the only vision that will do. Nothing else will satisfy the human heart but Jesus and the love of Him!


Alan said…
Bones, if you don't have a contract your boss is behaving illegally under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The contract itself needn't be in writing,but see
and also do a bit of looking around union sites or this students' union site:
Proteios1 said…
I agree with your sentiment, but in the USA for example the Supreme Court has ruled corporations are people who can campaign for politicians, etc. there are some dangerous trends that you don't address. So I agree with your simplified personal experience description, but I don't think it is the whole picture either.
Fg said…
Pope Francis is a disaster.
my boss is look like your article. hahaa.. so funny
Lynda said…
Very eloquent.
Francis said…
You're fired.
The Bones said…
Haha. Very funny.
Nicolas Bellord said…
It may not be the whole of the picture as Proteios1 says but personal morality is a very large part of it. Much of the financial services industry could be improved if individuals would cease telling lies, cease to gamble with other people's money, cease to indulge in usury, not be greedy and have regard for their employees and customers. Talking of "structural sin" which can only be removed by political action tends to give the impression that individuals are not to blame for their failings .
Lagallina said…
Myth No. 1: Business owners are rich and selfish.

Fact: Business owners struggle to feed their families, take enormous risks, and provide jobs to those who do not have them.

As a business owner it gets really old hearing that we are evil and selfish. Without the small business owner, everything would be owned by governments and mega-corporations.

If you are envious of your boss, start your own business. You will be the one to take the risks, to deal with the endless regulations, and to be lucky in the end to come out even.

The whole tone of this post sounds like the typical Marxists propaganda: "Hate the rich."
I always thought that the whole concept of "structures of sin" sounded solidly pelagian. I think it was JPII the first Pope to start using it. I am just an ordinary catholic, so who am I to say, anyway?.

Cheating labourers of their due is one of the sins that cry out to God for vengeance, as the Bible says. Along with wilful murder, sodomy, and oppresion of widows and orphans, no less.

So, there you go.

I have been a small business owner myself. You just cannot build your profit on the injustice to others. I do not buy, though, the generalisation that all small business owners are Scrooge types. And from ample personal direct experience I am of the opinion that large corporations are a lot more unjust to their employees than small business owners. And finally, I concur with Lagallina and would recommend people critical of small business owner to try it out before launching an all out attack.

In any case, it does look to me that this particular small business owner is making every effort to corner the market of tickets to Hell.

Having said that, and as Leo XIII and Chesterton taught us, the choice is not between large corporations and large State.

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