Students debated the benefits and disadvantages of both distributism and the free market in terms of Catholic economics Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery.
Advertised as a “Lincoln-Douglas Debate,” the debate aimed to answer the hypothetical question: “Should the city of Steubenville seek a more distributist economic system?”
The distributist position was presented by senior Luke Pipa and sophomore Lucas Cayer. Senior Alex McKenna and junior Preston Pelishek took up the capitalist side.
The opening argument was given by the distributists.
“The way we approach economics is fundamentally tied to the value we hold,” said Pipa. “As Catholics, these values are going to have some problems with the idea of a free market system.”
Arguing that capitalism divorces labor from capital, Pipa said this rupture changes how men perceive their duties to society.
“Where capitalism errs is in viewing man as an individual,” he said. “Distributism views man socially, saying ‘no, we’re always going to take the family into account.’”
In McKenna’s opening speech, he quoted American economist Milton Friedman, who said the free market incentivizes man to seek his own end.
“This is exactly what we want in life, one that promotes the competitive drive of man that, in turn, promotes his self-preservation,” McKenna said. “By his own self-preservation, man’s ability to seek the good is promoted.”
The next speech was given by Pelishek. He argued that historically, capitalism and the free market have made it much easier for people to specialize their talents, as it reduced the amount of labor required to simply exist.
“Working went beyond just working to provide for the family,” he said. “Thanks to technological society, few of us live in fear of dying of countless diseases.”
Cayer’s speech touched on the practical applications of distributism. He argued that managing wealth on the national level causes the local level to be neglected.
In order to ensure that wealth stays in the community, a distributist system would either promote small businesses or a large business owned by employees, Cayer said.
Junior Liam Pope said, “While I did not come away from the debate with much more knowledge about distributism, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Catholics’ economic responsibilities.”
The debate was presented by Student Government and Christian Students for Free Enterprise.