By: Hugh Brien
Franciscan University of Steubenville hosted guest speaker, John Madung, professor of economics at University of Dallas who focused on what distributism is and how it would help fix the current economic situation in the United States.
As author of several books on distributism and editor-in-chief of “Distributor’s Review,” he explained the definition of a free market and how distributism could bring about a viable and truly free market. He said distibutism sounds like what the current president of the United States is advocating in his policies. However, distributism is concerned with free markets, distributive justice, and property. The president is concerned with making sure everyone has equality of property. Madung said the purpose of distributism is to, “find a place for economic freedom.”
He said the market control should shift from a “cartel” economy, where only one to two companies control all of one type of product. This can be brought about with a suspicion of subsidies, use of fees instead of taxes, suspicion of size, differential taxation and licenses to replace patents. He said distributism is sometimes called distributive justice. This is proportional return to what the individual contributes to production. What follows is corrective justice, trade between individuals to correct imbalances in distributive justice. Madung said this concept disappears when productivity makes a huge jump while wages and compensations stay the same. In the 1970s, this situation came because of the Great Depression. As a result, government expands, raising the debt, and making for an unstable situation.
Madung said one facet of distributive justice is a just wage which helps correct an unstable situation. It brings equilibrium to the market, without which government is free to grow. The problem is that economists have rejected judgment in favor for science, and a just wage requires judgment of a case by case basis to work.
He also said property is one of the most basic fundamentals in economic and social relationships. There are two types property, manmade and natural. The manmade is self-explanatory and belongs to the man who made it. The natural property is what man does not make, literally nature itself. A major issue with property is the relationship of ownership to use. Madung said use must be exclusive while ownership can be anyone and everyone.
The professor also said the government is the reason there is a separation of use and ownership because power follows property. He gave several examples. In Tribalism the tribe owns and the family uses. In Feudalism the king owns and the serfs use. In Socialism the state owns and the people use. Madung said the unique thing about distribution is that most of the people own and use.
In all the other systems as population increases the price of property increases as well. In distributism, a man with his own property can negotiate his own just wage. “We must live in freedom or dependency…freedom requires property,” said Madung. At the end of his talk, the professor called for: re-moralizing of the markets, re-connection of justice and economics, re-localizing the economy and re-capitalizing the low and middle class.
His lecture was well-received by the student gathering, as freshman Michael Schmesing said, “He was a good presenter, he defended his points well, and he was very receptive to questions.”