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Book Review: Toward a Truly Free Market

by John Young

This is a review of John C. Médaille’s Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More.

For those unfamiliar with Distributism, it is a Third Position economic theory that was originally founded in Catholic Social Doctrine that rejects both finance capitalism and socialism. As I have also found finance capitalism and socialism to be two sides of the same coin and incompatible with the long term best interests of our folk, I read this book eagerly as soon as it was published.

I have re-published some of the author’s shorter articles here before. He’s a solid thinker and an excellent writer, so I was really looking forward to seeing his thought coalesced into an organized format. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was very impressed.

Too many books on Distributism spend all of their time looking at historical figures nobody has ever heard of or spelling out Catholic social doctrine in minute detail that isn’t very engaging (or persuasive) to a non-Catholic such as myself. This book, thankfully, gets right to the meat and potatoes, demonstrating the soundness of Distributism as a free market economic system without reference or need for Catholicism or historical data other than what is required to demonstrate a point. Economic systems are human-made. In this respect, they are no different from an electronic device. And like an electronic device, because of the details of their creation, they adhere by and large to certain laws inherent in their design.

Thus it is a huge mistake to refer to economic laws as though they are as immutable as physical laws such as gravity. Economies are a human creation and hence, like an electronic device, can be changed. And when they are changed — the rules change.

The author explains Distributism in clear and easily understood terms from the ground up. He explains why Distributism would lead to truly free markets in a fashion where finance capitalism does not. He further expands on the details of how distributism works, its history (without sounding like a member of some secret club) and more.

I am not sure I personally agree with everything written in this book. For example, I am still mulling over his idea of taxing economic rents rather than income. But my agreement or disagreement with every minute detail is not important. What is important, rather, is that the author explains his thesis clearly, supports it well and most importantly makes it relevant to me. He does, and he does so in a way that shows him to be an excellent teacher.

I like this book. The author does a great job. Many of the ideas are, I believe, very worthwhile and they are expressed in a fashion the makes sense even to people who weren’t hanging around Catholic or Fabian Socialist circles back before my grandfather was born. He makes a convincing case as to why Distributist solutions would be applicable and even effective today, and how Distributism may be an idea whose time has come.

I do not care where you come from economically. You could be a fan of Ludwig von Mises, Keynes, or Marx and unless you are one of those people who only reads material that supports what he already believes, you WILL find seriously thought provoking material in this book.

If you are someone who is willing to think outside of the left-right paradigm and consider new ideas, I highly recommend this book and believe you’ll be glad you read it.

2012-10-21

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