Free Market Lost
Our lifetime search for the Free Market and book by Father Sirico's DEFENDING THE FREE MARKET
I grew up in our family food store and knew about mark up. operating costs, competiive factors and labor costs before even going to high school. The only thing that could beat small business is a "lost leader" economy where those with more money conduct business to their advantage by selling at under costs. Later, I worked in several factories while going to college and in college I has some of the most master philosophy educators ever. I took one who was known to flunk one half of his class. Yet, many sudents went out of their way to take him because of his being a great treasure of learning. I also had some other excellent Jesuit profs in theology, geopolitical history and sociology.
However, imagine going from the philosopy college class room to the factory and sitting at a food break with several factory workers. There was a vast void between the factory floors and the college classrooms. There is big commuications gap in our society. I also worked at our family food store on weekends during a time when the "lost leader" economy took over. Later on in the corporate world I experienced the "lost leader" economy with competitors selling under costs for long periods of time to capture a market or to play unfair economic games. At least two companies I was with were taken out in a short period of time this way. After more than fifty years in our economic system, I never found the free market. There were fair trade laws on the books but they were never enforced. Besides, the small businesses did not have funds to take on the large corporations in the first place. This was only a small part of the problem too. I saw every business trick in the books.
In the background, the factory worker in me was always there teaching me human dignity in the work day. I never was able to jump the void between the factory floors and the college class room especially when it comes to common sense related to the common good. In my businesses career I dealt with all echelons of management in my own business pursuits with China business agents directly.
I carried two things with me most of my life. First it was my client and prospect book and secondly, Jacque Maritain's book - Scholastism and Politics. I read the latter constantly even taking in words and phrases I did not entirely understand while waiting to close major deals with some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I took with me Jacques Maritain's distinction between individuality and personality. This distinction represents the core - the kernel - of all human transactions. One is related to matter and the other to form. One is related to serving youself and the other is related to serving others. Individualiduality rules the game of life in the business world.
Frankly, I never found a way to make a Christian living. I never found the so called free market. I did find free trade economics which I now hold as a structural sin against all in society. It is about the "lost leader" economy being globalized in a massive fashion. Free trade economics is a system that divides investments from production. It divides the money changers from the value of workers and labor. It does all this for the sake of profits for just a few. Now nations acting as brokers and dealers in a global economic arena use every trick in the book at the expense of human dignity.
So all of Father Sirico thoughts about defending the free market is light years away from my understanding of things. The economic day is a stumbling block for all who seek the life ideal on earth. And in the end, the consumer is the weakest link. My biggest business mistake was believing workers and businesses would not shop their way out of their jobs and businesses. I trusted the common sense of the common man too much.
Economically, we need a new kind of diversity. It is far from any system that tries to make one size fits all. We need to break the "plantation owner mentality" where centrailization is stressed over distributive economic methods. Only local and value added economies work. There are about five to seven added value levels from the raw product stage to the final end user or retail level. We have to input the economic fact that all the money spent at retail or the end user level quickly fans out to places where the products are made or grown. In the free trade economic world the money in most cases fans out to far away places and do not stay in place to recyle our own economy.
Pope Benedict in his economic encylical suggests the use of subsidiarity which means to make all decisions at the lowest level possible. This should apply to everything in the economic day too. We need to talk about a diversity of communties where workers can gather as one for the sake of their community. Let us talk about things like sheriff communties where the communties are protected from the negatives of centralized government. There is so much more to talk about than all the intellectual equations that have no meaning to those who do the walk before they talk. We need to find new ways to communicate between the factory floors and the college classrooms. When Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress he pointed to Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. The two have been a great part of my life and also include Peter Maurin the co-founder of the Catholic Workers. When we are able to merge all this with the so called free market, we may finally have something real to talk about. Doing unto others as you would have them do to you is not only a biblical term but a practical solution.
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