Interview with John Médaille - A Catholic Critique of Capitalism
Podcast: Season 2, Episode 9
In late 2016, after an election year that left me feeling very disillusioned with American politics and alienated from the conservative pro-life circles I had been actively involved in, I began earnestly reading about Catholic Social Teaching.
As a part of that, I started following people—theologians, business people, writers—who were critiquing American capitalism from the perspective of the Church’s teaching. One of the very first books I read on this topic was “Toward a Truly Free Market” by John Médaille. And it challenged a whole bunch of assumptions I had about business and economics that I had never examined before.
One passage from that book that stayed with me the most was about how American capitalism utterly devalues workers, treating them even worse than commodities. John Médaille wrote:
It is an oddity of modern economics that it depends on treating the worker as just another commodity (labor) for purposes of pricing that labor, but treats the production cost of that “commodity” as something beyond the price system.
If we take any other commodity, say a bar of pig-iron, it is assumed that the price must cover the cost of production, maintenance, and depreciation, or the product will be withdrawn from the market.
But in regards to labor, this assumption is never examined. For labor has its own “production cost” (the family) and its own “maintenance” costs (subsistence and health-care) and its own “depreciation” costs (sickness and old age). Labor cannot simply be withdrawn from the market when these requirements are not met.
Therefore, labor—and the family—does not even gain the dignity of a bar of pig-iron in modern economic theory.
I was thrilled when, back in September, John agreed to come on the podcast and talk with us about a Catholic critique of capitalism.
Episode nine of the PFG Podcast is available on Youtube and in your podcast feed!
Dominic and Paul interview John Médaille about his book, Toward a Truly Free Market, and discuss a Catholic critique of Capitalism. John dives into some of the history of Capitalism and also offers some ideas for what a more just economy–an economy that places family and the common good at the center–looks like.
John teaches Catholic Social Teaching to business students at the University of Dallas and has forty years of business experience. He is the author of The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace; Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More; and Theology: Mythos or Logos?: A Dialogue on Faith, Reason, and History.”
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