About Dr. Patrick Toner 7 Articles
Dr. Patrick Toner is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. He writes about analytic metaphysics and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas...and Norman Rockwell. He earned his master's in philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Dr. Toner blogs at Lift Up Thine Eyes.


  1. How much IS a “family wage.” Dollars amounts, please, not the fuzzy
    “Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future…”
    Is a teen entitled to a “family wage”? What if he has an extraordinary talent that earns him quite a large sum? I imagine a father of two children needs quite a bit less than a father of five, six, or seven. But what if the father of two is the company CEO, and the father of seven is a new hire with a GED and minimal skills?

    • And they get all this from the story of Adam in Genesis? Really? The problem is that too much of “magisterial teaching” is the result of feverish theologizing over matters that are really none of the church’s business (not to mention entirely beyond its competence). A bit of genuine exegesis, as in “trying to figure out what the author’s actual point was in telling the story” would go a long way towards curing what ails the contemporary church.

  2. “For one thing, Naughton’s comfort with the denial of a family wage is hard to square with magisterial teaching.”

    But, where, one also can ask, is the injustice of providing legitimately lower paying entry-level jobs (i.e., lower entry-level job descriptions) for those who are NOT responsible for families? Is this option actually “a subsidiarist approach to work design [which] would focus much more attentively on the capabilities [?] and needs of the workers,” and enable some chance at qualified advancement? Or, where is the reality that statutorily ramped-up minimum-hourly-wage requirements have often been shown to result in bottom-line layoffs and reduced hours, actually hurting many (not all) of those intended to benefit? Intentions are one thing; multiple outcomes can be another.

    Yes, there is an injustice that families can no longer make ends meet, and that corporate profits often accumulate in ways that surely ignite envy and, in this way, rip Solidarity out by the roots. But magisterial statements of principle, alone and in complex economies, do not substitute for the needed informed prudential judgment which, as a distinct and basic moral virtue, is an equally-absent and necessary ingredient.

    The broader questions about economically viable families (a “primary institution”) bring us to such systemic abuses as old-fashion “usury” (!)—-currency devaluation to fund personal and public debt, job-substituting robotics and offshoring (…but, with family-friendly price reductions), and the need for a society which, in the first place, is less indifferent to absentee fathers and other single-parent outcomes (the cited Ruby case also involving limited skills).

    It really does get back, then, to “the family” itself, too, as a core principle of Catholic Social Teaching, like Subsidiarity (as in “work design”), and Solidarity.

  3. It’s highly amusing how the sacrosanct “family” get conveniently pulled out of the closet so that higher wages might be justified. Is the author aware that the “family” no longer exists? In this Era of Progressivism, Instrumentalism and Constructivism, “family” is whatever you want it to be. Since “family” is just about every possibility, it is about nothing. Yesterday I followed a car whose bumper sticker read, “Dog Mom.”

  4. A fair days work for a fair days wages. Working one family member, working forty hours a week, can sustain a family, as the lady stays home, and take care, raises the family. Once a standard, in a stable, economic and social times. A norm, that is great for a nation.
    Never borrow money, but rather save to attain what one might want. Nor, should or can a government borrow money.
    These facts, decades years past, were all know as common sense, a standard.

    Today claimed intellects ignore these facts, or common sense.
    Failing to recognize the doom of every civilization, lies in the destroying of the very foundation of a great society, country, nation, is the Family.
    Never can a people look to a government to save them, and deny God, and expect to be Great… Never proven more than the USA today…

    If the farms prosper, the nation prospers, if the “family” farm fails, the nation is doomed, is another proven fact, the US proves today… Yet today, the US is the most food import nation, it has destroyed, the family farm of direct human food consumption. Hunger, is greater in the US, and World today, than ever in history, also speaks to the reality, of not only can a family not earn enough to mere shelter, feed, and cloth themselves, but the food doesnt exist, nor are monopolized food industry obligated to exist, that have now, destroyed the family food stores.
    The government failed to protect, the family, entity, chain, that feed the nation..

    • Goodness lyle, do you know anyone who’s starving in America? Outside of those suffering from mental illness or other troubles that would deter them from seeking assistance there’s no shortage of food in the US.
      Even the panhandlers are well fed. Our local soup kitchen and food banks are all helping them and operating well. Walmart has donated so many groceries that a local food bank has run out of shelf space in the past.
      America has problems for sure but food shortage isn’t one of them. Not yet at least.

      • Goodness Mrscracker, the issue, as example. In recent times a foreign country and the people of have essentially purchased a large percentage of a “certain” grain out of the US.. What will the US now use to replace that grain, but what else can that country cleanout of the US at the same time. A grain is not now available to produce human food in the USA.
        In a spiritual sense, yes, we do not look to God to provide, but to ourselves.
        In a larger issue, to this article, and the plain ignorance of, is summed up in.. Its common that one Sports Person in the USA is paid more in the USA, than some entire countries total yearly Production, GNP.
        We do not value the family, nor the family workers.. they new exist for profits to the stock markets, the rich made richer, on the backs of the common man, the family.
        We in the USA also when we talk about Wages, need to recognize the USA spends near two thirds of a Trillion on arms to exterminate humans a year, but our total food production is a fraction of that at the farm gate level.
        which brings up the classic example of the politician being told of the atrocity and crime of the US genocide of Yemen.. That we need to feed them, not genocide them.. and the US politician remarking, We the US cannot afford to feed the people of Yemen! When we spend more on arms in a a few months, than it would cost to feed ourselves and others for Years..
        .Dr. Patrick Toner needs to write on the US military budget, verse the US wages doubled in the 1970’s. but today it will take decades to double again.. Yet health care insurance will cost a family business, 20,000 a year.. Or, minium wages for a year, wont provide health insurance alone, for a family for a year..
        Dr. Patrick also needs to recognize the issue of borrowing to exist, that now exists in the USA, a Wage and Debt wage society. Student loans a big example of this, of now children are instanously debt slave due to education.

        Never borrow money, most directly, the government cannot borrow money, needs to be relearned, to write any factual comments, to wages and human social existence.

        How does, in Philosophy of learning, How does one man come to be a slave of another? Borrowing of money…

        A real interesting philosophy of the US, is the US destroyed itself by war, in it spent the nation so far into debt, the nation can no longer feed itself..

  5. This essay fails to get deep enough into one of, if not the core issue, behind all the secondary issues. Whether worker or owner, underpaid or overpaid,head of family of 7 or single, if we do not have some basic spiritual and transcendent values tugging at us when we wake up and begin our daily routines of work, play,or even religious rituals, are we different from rats in the lab who do what researchers are testing to get their food. We work to get means to provide food and housing so we can get up the next day and do it again, and again and again. We work to eat and eat to work, no matter how satisfying our work or fancy our food. If we cannot keep ourselves open to graces of God we are doomed to live our lives as rats on our treadmills, however hard or easy we find our treadmills.

    • Jim Adams makes an insightful point. Just as we toil each day to feed our body, we should also toil each day to feed our souls. The difference is that feeding our soul is very easy if we do what Cardinal Desire Mercier said: “If every day during five minutes, pray: ‘O, Holy Spirit, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strength and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that you permit to happen to me, only show me what is your will.” Be quiet for five minutes and listen. How hard is that to feed our soul each day.

  6. One solution to low paid nursing assistants like Ruby who haven’t been able to invest the time to advance their training is to privately assist them. Either personally if you feel they’ve rendered exceptional service or through a church community.
    Or alternatively, the hospice itself could assist CNA’s to further their education and increase their income.
    There have to be entry level jobs and corresponding wages to be fair to those who have sacrificed time and money to advance their degrees. But there’s no reason why entry level workers shouldn’t be encouraged and supported to to be able to do the same.

  7. Peter Beaulieu said, “But, where, one also can ask, is the injustice of providing legitimately lower paying entry-level jobs (i.e., lower entry-level job descriptions) for those who are NOT responsible for families? Is this option actually “a subsidiarist approach to work design [which] would focus much more attentively on the capabilities [?] and needs of the workers,” and enable some chance at qualified advancement? Or, where is the reality that statutorily ramped-up minimum-hourly-wage requirements have often been shown to result in bottom-line layoffs and reduced hours, actually hurting many (not all) of those intended to benefit? Intentions are one thing; multiple outcomes can be another.”

    The only injustice that I can determine is not providing enough (in terms of job AND wages) for a single or head of household breadwinner to get by financially – given all of his responsibilities. Ways that this could happen are arbitrary/unjust dismissal (e.g. profit maximization), reducing hours, blacklisting/refusal to hire, or not paying high enough wages.

    Any consequences of change in minimum wages under the current scheme that you note assumes (1) that a person can be morally laid off for reasons which are possibly related to improving the bottom line, and NOT necessarily company solvency, and (2) companies are morally able to change how many hours a person works. What is forgotten is that (3) companies set the prices. While (3) MAY be possibly unjust (e.g. pharmaceuticals), and could be regulated it also is within a company’s current discretion. If personnel, hours worked, and wages are largely determined by law, then the only variable which a company can control is prices.

    • Good points. Thank you. Some tangential clarification, here. My attention was too narrow–distracted by researched outcomes in Seattle and the state of Washington, with minimum-wage statutes now on the books for a few years. In my comments I was thinking of hourly-wage earners. In these cases after-the-fact research did show, in many cases, layoffs and reduced hours (e.g.,restaurants). The Law of Unintended Consequences for this set, and not what the policy wonks were so sure would happen.

      My armchair thought, at the time, was that whatever the minimum wage was in, say, 1940, could be adjusted to current dollars, and that this made more sense than what appeared to be an off-the-wall figure. My napkin calculation–which could be wrong–showed a new minimum wage of $11.00/hour rather than the statutory $15.00, also assuming that an economy of hamburger flippers matches the 1940 economy (well before so many valuable jobs were offshored to subsistence conomies–the larger issue). In general, we do have some real equity problems, but on a shifting and fragmenting landscape. An inviting environment for bumper-sticker slogans.

  8. Here’s an idea that will fix the “just wage” problem.
    All those who insist businesses should pay a “living wage”–such that a man can support himself, his stay-at-home wife and his three Catholic-schools educated offspring–please start a business and practice what you say morality and justice demand.

  9. “But the factory workers continue to do work designed for them by others—by the organization—and this will be an inescapable fact about the work design at any such organization. In reality, the bosses control the work, and subsidiarity is a fairy tale, irrespective of whether the little slices of it are more or less humanely designed.”

    Given that the bosses are a part of management, what is the other option? Somehow work has to be coordinated. It may be possible and desirable for customer input (possibly by law), but once a decision has been made concerning the product or service, it needs implementation – and that requires authority.

    “The ownership in question here is not (as such) the ownership of a house or what have you, it is the ownership of the means of production. Leo XIII envisions a social order where workmen labor for others only until they become able to labor for themselves. The family wage’s job, ultimately, is to make wages unnecessary. The goal is real economic freedom, which entails genuine subsidiarity. We do not envision a society of hirelings, and no such society can be an embodiment of Catholic Social Teaching.”

    Technically people already own the means of production – their labor. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any wage required in justice. The only way that wages could be abolished would be for every household to produce all of its necessities. If one wanted to “devolve” back to largely agricultural times, then this may be somewhat feasible, but there is a question of its desirability.

    “Needless to say—needless to say!—in no actual system whatever will it turn out that each and every person is capable of holding productive property and serving effectively as his own master. In this shattered world, we will never fully embody the ideal. But we must nevertheless recognize the ideal as the ideal. For all its excellence in its own place, I would like to have seen Naughton’s book present that ideal more fully.”

    The first sentence is true, but how do we know that the ideal is correct? I would settle for job security under conditions of just cause dismissal, and the state’s ACTIVE help in obtaining a new position when conditions require a job change.

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