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Catholic View of the Economy: Excerpts from Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler's "The Labor Question and Christianity" (1864)

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May God in His mercy therefore awaken those men who will seize the fruitful idea of Productive Associations in the name of God, on the basis of Christianity, and for the salvation of the working class. A large portion of workers in the largest factory districts is now in the hands of unbelieving men and depend upon them for their wages; their livelihood is doubly endangered. Not only are they reliant upon their daily wages, which can be taken away from them any day, for their most basic human needs; they are also in danger of having their factory masters buy their faith and conscience from them. This is what is so sad and disgraceful about this new latter-day slavery. Many rich factory masters use the influence over these poor people that comes from their dependence to tear their Christian faith from their souls. I am thus saying that they have to serve them; if one replies to me that the factory worker is working voluntarily, I reply that this voluntariness is an illusion. Here, it is the same with competition and this whole liberal economic system, it is all appearance and [in] contradiction with reality. The poor worker lives in his homeland, close to business. One tells him there is freedom of movement, you can go elsewhere in search of your bread. But how can this man journey forth with wife and family in order to try this! He cannot dispense with his daily wage for a single day without going hungry; how can he – on the off chance of finding work – go traveling about for weeks on end, not only dispensing with his wage, but also incurring travel expenses! He would be heading toward begging and death by hunger; for him there is no freedom of movement, because he cannot make use of it; he is bound to the place of his homeland by natural laws. Furthermore, the liberal party says to him: there is occupational freedom, to pick another trade in the whole wide world, you don't need to make do with the daily wages doled out by the factory master; if you do that, that's your business. But, again, this is all untrue. The poor worker of whom we speak is a family father; he has spent the first and ten best years of his youth in the factory; there, he has already expended the best part of his health; and division of labor in the factory means that he knows nothing but one small mechanical task, one single part of a larger process that has no value of its own whatsoever. His factory lifespan is perhaps forty years at most, and now he's already starting to become sickly, and at the same time he now has the most needs. The liberal party can say as much as it wants about occupational

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