Some of the hardest working people I know are Catholic priests. I knew one priest who kept working even though he was severely suffering from Parkinson's syndrome. I know another priest who is still working despite being in late stage Lou Gehrig disease. My current priest is busting his butt at an age when I hope to be fishing (metaphorically, of course, because I actually hate fishing). I admire them all greatly. But as a law and economics guy who starts with the assumption that people are rational actors, I am puzzled by them.
I've been noodling for a long time with a research project inspired by Jay Hartzell, Christopher Parsons & David Yermack's paper Incentive Compensation in the Church (February 8, 2010). Journal of Labor Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1303853. Here's the abstract:
We study the compensation and productivity of more than 2,000 Methodist ministers in a 43-year panel data set. The church appears to use pay-for-performance incentives for its clergy, as their compensation follows a sharing rule by which pastors receive approximately 3% of the incremental revenue from membership increases. Ministers receive the strongest rewards for attracting new parishioners who switch from other congregations within their denomination. Monetary incentives are weaker in settings where ministers have less control over their measured performance.
This leads to a problem known as sheep stealing. But set that issue aside for a minute. In the Great Commission, Jesus told the apostles "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." As successors of the apostles, priests have that same duty. The Methodists appear to incent their pastors to fulfill the Great Commission by using pay, which is what an economist (or economically-minded lawyer) would expect.
As I understand it, however, Catholic dioscean priests get paid the same--regardless of how big or small their parish congregation may be and regardless of whether it is growing or not. (And, of course, there are the religious orders whose priests have taken a vow of poverty, but let's not complcate things too much.)
This presents two questions relevant to my project:
These questions are interesting to me because I'm a legal academic who studies how law affects behavior. Of late, I've become increasingly interested in how canon law might influence the behavior of priests just as corporate law influences executives. Churches and corporations are both organizations run by people and governed by a set of laws. Perhaps the tools we use to study the latter might inform our understanding of the former.
I'm also interested in the question as a Catholic. The Catholic Church has long had a reputation - whether deserved or not - for avoiding active evangelization. One of the many changes Pope Francis is making, however, is to encourage a commitment to evangelization.
They say virtue is its own reward. I wonder, however, if Pope Francis' call would have better results if canon law and priestly compensation were structured so as to incent church leaders to lead in this area.
Very interesting new paper by Friedman, Hershey H., The Art of Constructive Arguing: Lessons from the Talmud (July 27, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2472735:
In the highly competitive age of the Internet and globalization, an organization has to be creative to prosper. This means that people have to work together and learn how to have productive meetings. Today’s U.S. Congress is a prime example of what happens when people have lost the ability to argue in a productive manner. The American public has no respect for Congress and refers to it as being worthless and dysfunctional. It is interesting to note that the Talmud which took shape after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE consists of thousands of disagreements regarding Jewish law yet served as a device to keep the Jewish people united. For example, Abaye and Rava had hundreds of arguments about law in the Talmud yet were the best of friends; they are even buried together in the same cave. Talmudic arguments did not lead to ugly battles but were seen as the way to clarify the law as well as answer philosophical questions. This paper will explore the lessons we can learn from the Talmud about constructive arguing. Nine rules that can be used to ensure that arguments are productive are provided
Naturally, I find myself unable to resist adding this bell and whistle:
There is a very interesting debate going on at The Conglomerate on the Hobby Lobby decision. I was invited to participate, but I think I have literally run out of things to say about the case.
Usha Rodrigues has announced that the Conglomerate Blog is hosting a Hobby Lobby symposium next week. I've been invited to sit in and doubtless will. I understand my friend Wharton Professor Eric Orts will also be commenting. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading Eric's new book, Business Persons: A Legal Theory of the Firm, with great interest. Towards the end of the book Eric has an excellent analysis of Citizens United, in which he makes several key points:
Orts concludes with an extended argument that the appropriate compromise is one of "full disclosure about business participation in politics." (250).
Although I might quibble with minor points here and there, the gist of Eric's argument strikes me as being exactly right and I'm in full agreement with his conclusion.
Hence, I'll be very interested to see what Eric makes of the Hobby Lobby case. Will he support a disclosure-based compromise on the free exercise claim? (Note that Joan Heminway thinks disclosure is the solution.) if so, how would a dislcosure regime work given that most (all?) of the companies that will be able to and likely to claim exemptions under Hobby Lobby likely will be non-reporting companies. To whom and how would they disclose?
Issue # 2 of Volume 11 of Econ Journal Watch includes a symposium which "suggests that mainstream economics has unduly flattened economic issues down to certain modes of thought (such as ‘Max U’); it suggests that economics needs enrichment by formulations that have religious or quasi-religious overtones." Among the articles is a very interesting one by my friend Eric Rasmussen, the abstract of which explains:
The Prologue to this issue discusses how the flatness of economics leaves out aspects of reality that do not fit neatly into its formulations. I agree that much is left out, but I am not so sure methodology is to blame. Rather, the omission is caused by our restriction of economic methodology to particular assumptions about reality. In this essay, I first show that something like utility maximization has long been present in Christian theology. To be sure, economics is ‘flat’ in its style and, unlike religion, excludes by custom certain scholarly tools which would complement the flat approach. I argue, however, that the essential difference is that some religions, in particular Christianity, take their start from belief in factual assumptions that economics ignores.
In his homily today my parish priest, Fr. Tom Welbers, gave a fascinating discourse on the history of the Eucharist and the doctrine of transubstantiation. Like Father Tom, I enjoy reading about church history and thought I'd pass along some recommendations of books that I found especially useful and informative:
The NY Times reports that:
After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.
Predictably, the PCUSA disclaimed any anti-Israeli intent:
The measure that was passed not only called for divestment but also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution, encouraged interfaith dialogue and travel to the Holy Land, and instructed the church to undertake “positive investment” in endeavors that advance peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. It also said the motion was “not to be construed” as “alignment with or endorsement of the global B.D.S.” movement by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The language was written by the church’s 65-member Middle East committee.
I am reminded of the Seven Churches of Revelation and, in particular, of the Church of Laodicea, which was lukewarm and tepid.
In any case, the disclaimer is bullshit. There is no avoiding the reality that this will be spun as a win for BDS or the reality that this decision is bad economics, bad politics, and bad religion.
I have written on previous attempts by members of the PCUSA (who care more about left-liberal policial policies than God) to divest from comapnies doing business with Israel:
In Those Divesting Presbyterians, I pointed out that "divestment may make activists feel all warm and fuzzy, but the evidence is that (1) it has no significant effect on the target of the divestment campaign but (2) likely does harm the activists' portfolios." I also pointed out that:
Managers of pension plans are fiduciaries of the beneficiaries of those plans. When they pursue a social agenda nearly certain to result in poorer performance, they are disserving their beneficiaries. The activists at the PC(USA) may have gotten a warm and fuzzy feeling from taking a slap at Israel, but in doing so they injured Jewish-Christian relations, besmirched the one functioning democracy in the Middle East, and stabbed their own people in the back. All for the sake of a gesture that experience teaches will be fruitless.
In Was the Presbyterian Divestment Anti-Semitic, I concluded that the 2004 effort was in fact anti-semitic. The same conclusion applies in full measure to this vote.
In Here we go again: PCUSA considering Israel divestment: Anti-semitic, bad economics and politics, and a breach of fiduciary duty, I pulled together a lot of prior posts into one long critique of divestment.
The Prebyterians have voted to be PC, but I believe they will find that Genesis 12:3 has teeth.
Is summarized here:
We have the best defense lawyer on our side, who “does not speak much but loves” and who “in this very moment” is praying for each of us, showing “his wounds to the Father” to remind him of “the price he paid to save us”.
You can't complain about the Purge if you don't stand up for everybody's rights.
On the core issue -- yes or no on capital punishment -- I'm with the opponents. Better to err on the side of not taking life. The teaching of the Catholic Church, to which I belong, seems right to me: The state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals, but it should refrain if it has other means of protecting people from them. Our government almost always does.
An interesting new paper says yes:
Abstract: The tradition of giving finds itself in every religious text across the world. There seem to be few other principles which are so globally accepted. Whether it is the Zakat, the Islamic practice of giving and consequent self-purification, or the Dāna, the practice of giving in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the concept of gratuitous transfer of wealth to the less privileged strikes a common chord between the three most popular religions in Asia.
This paper seeks to first identify the traditions relating to charity within religious texts such as the Hadith, the Manusmriti and the Tipataka. In the absence of institutions, including the concept of the corporation, during the time when such religious texts were envisaged, the directions mandating charity are by default, applicable to individuals. This paper goes on to examine the creation of the modern-day corporation through the lens of independent corporate personality as well as a nexus of contracts.
Arguing further that -- in the absence of a large number of shareholders, Asian corporations tend to be family and individual driven -- such families and individuals may have a propensity to inculcate their individual traditions into inanimate and juristic bodies such as the corporations they run and control. As a result, this paper finally considers whether the tradition of giving, as mandated by religion may be a significant factor to boost Corporate Social Responsibility. While most Asian countries have some form of voluntary guidelines on corporate social responsibility, mandatory laws relating to CSR have been passed in Indonesia and India. A recent report even suggests that Asian consumers would be willing to spend more on products manufactured by socially responsible companies. This paper posits that a tradition of giving, spurred by religious mandate, does make CSR far more relevant in Asia.
Majumdar, Arjya B., Zakat, Dana and Corporate Social Responsibility (April 6, 2014). Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2421001
In theory, Catholicism's preferential option for the poor ought to lead to the same result, which would make an interesting comparative legal/religious/corporate governance research project.