A Parable for #LaborDay, by Chris Lubbers
Once upon a time, a billionaire company owner decided to take an extravagant business vacation with some of his friends in politics and finance. To test his lowest-paid employees, he put three of them in charge of parts of the operation. He gave the first new manager $2 million, the second $800,000 and the third $400,000 to improve the company.
“Do well and you shall be rewarded,” he promised.
The managers were given access to private internal documents making explicit the full extent of the business, which profited primarily from political corruption, exploitation and theft. Understanding how the owner’s money was made, the first manager, a quick study, doubled down. He closed two domestic plants and outsourced the work to countries with weak labor laws and no environmental regulations. The second manager decided to cut wages and benefits of the poorest workers. By doing so, each manager increased profits in proportion to the amount he was given.
After reading carefully through the company documents, the third new manager was devastated and struggled about what to do.
When the owner returned from vacation, he called in the three managers to report to him before the executives of the company. The first manager explained his plan and the profit reaped, as did the second.
“Well done, good and loyal workers. You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Welcome to the good life–“
“Sir,” the third manager interrupted, “You run a cruel and dishonest business, profiting from illegal and inhumane practices. In short, you reap where you have not sown. You haven’t earned anything. I’m returning the money you gave me.”
“How dare you!” screamed the owner. “I’m cruel and dishonest?! I am a job creator! Do you fancy yourself a whistleblower? You’re a traitor! The least you could have done is sent that money to my banker friends to invest! Now, give my money to the first manager!”
Turning to the other employees, the owner announced, “I hope we’ve all learned something from this: the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Now, throw this worthless bum into the dumpster.”
Based on William Herzog’s scholarship on the Gospel According to Matthew 25:14-30.
Chris Lubbers is a graduate of Calvin College (BA, Philosophy and Math), has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Florida, has done doctoral research at UF in philosophy of language and metaphysics, and is currently ABD. He teaches philosophy at Muskegon Community College. You can find Chris advocating for justice and compassion in Holland, MI, or philosophizing over a pint at Pub Theology.