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Strange Bedfellows: Fr. John A. Ryan And The Minimum Wage Movement




Fr. John A. Ryan (1869–1945) was one of the early advocates of minimum wage laws in the United States. The thesis of this paper is that in three respects Fr. Ryan stood apart from other advocates of the minimum wage. First, during the period of his work, economics was developing on the basis of the positivist conception of science. Fr. Ryan’s case for the minimum wage combined economics with “non-scientific” theology and philosophy. Second, most religiously motivated American reformers were Protestants, and their advocacy was grounded in the Protestant Social Gospel movement. This was different from Fr. Ryan’s grounding in the social encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI, which themselves were grounded in the Catholic Church’s constant teaching that man is made in the image of God. Third, many reformers were motivated not at all by religion, but by the utilitarian calculus that had become the foundation of the social sciences. Although Fr. Ryan made utilitarian judgments in his analysis, he was not an ethical utilitarian.

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  • Hammond, J. Daniel, 2011. "Strange Bedfellows: Fr. John A. Ryan And The Minimum Wage Movement," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(04), pages 449-466, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jhisec:v:33:y:2011:i:04:p:449-466_00

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    1. Fox, Karl A, 1989. "Agricultural Economists in the Econometric Revolution: Institutional Background, Literature and Leading Figures," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 53-70, January.
    2. Malcolm Rutherford, 2003. "On the Economic Frontier: Walton Hamilton, Institutional Economics, and Education," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 611-653, Winter.
    3. H. Spencer Banzhaf, 2006. "The Other Economics Department: Demand and Value Theory in Early Agricultural Economics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 38(5), pages 9-31, Supplemen.
    4. Rutherford, Malcolm & Desroches, C. Tyler, 2008. "The Institutionalist Reaction To Keynesian Economics," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 29-48, March.
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