Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Economics of the Ten Commandments (Part 6)

The 6th Commandment

You shall not commit adultery (Ex 20.14; Deut 5.18, NAB). You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5.27-28, NAB).

If we offer to sell you a gallon of milk and deliver a half-gallon of milk mixed with a half-gallon of water, we’ve committed adultery.   Mixing water with milk is not much different from breaking one’s marriage vows because it’s altering a contract between two people.   If a company reduces the pay and benefits they’ve agreed to provide their employees, they’ve altered the contract they had with them.   If we don’t keep our promises to our employees, customers, or employers we’ve committed adultery as well.

Companies justify reducing their employee’s pay and benefits packages as cost savings measures to keep the company profitable.  But to the employees this is a reduction in their compensation package and it creates both an immediate and future hardship.   For example, if an employee has an agreement with their company for medical and retirement benefits and their company decreases these benefits without an equal value increase somewhere else then the company has committed adultery.  If this seems strange, think about that gallon of milk: we’d feel cheated if we’d paid for a gallon of milk but only received a half-gallon of milk mixed with a half-gallon of water.   In exactly the same way employees feel cheated when their company reduces their pay or medical and retirement benefits.  If the employee doesn’t like it, his only recourse is to find another job and hope his next employer won't alter the contract he made with them.  But for retired employees who lose their pension and medical benefits they have no recourse.

There have been several reported stories of employees that had their pay and benefits reduced and later discovered that management was given huge bonuses.  In some cases these bonuses exceed the cost of the lost pay and benefits.  The adultery in modern business today is when management has the power to arbitrarily reduce their employee’s compensation package while increasing their own. This is nothing more than a selfish childhood attitude of I got mine and you’re on your own.
Loyalty is a two way street with employees on one side and the company on the other.  Cheating employees, customers, or employers is not only dishonest but disloyal as well.  If a company is so poorly structured and organized that it has to earn its profits out of the back pockets of its employees and customers, then it probably needs new leadership.

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