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Thread: Distributism

  1. #1
    Ginkgo
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    Default Distributism

    Though I am reluctant, it would would be safe of me to think that America is been widely regarded as "The Land of the Free", the "Home of the Brave", or even "Freedom's Last Stand" by friend and foe alike. These phrases evoke glorious images of reds, whites, blues, images of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, blood, nostalgic historical figures, and even current events. However, they don't establish any concrete means of knowing the United States is free because there is no universal definition of Freedom itself. Some concern Freedom as individual Freedom, which is an oxymoron as long as it exists within the framework of a social structure composed of multiple entities. Others relate to social Freedoms and the ability to make personal decisions within the guidelines of a judicial imposition. Still, many are reminded of economic liberties involving the structure of business and governmental regulation of currency. Truth be told, the etiological roots of "Freedom" can be traced back to the times of old when the U.S. was unfettered from the grasp of foreign powers.

    Nevertheless, curiosity and uncertainty propels me to define Freedom for myself : "The flexibility of one to impose one's Will over one's environment". This nomenclature applies to the context of politics, natural law, and social array; all of which engage universal standards. Every finite being exists within the constraint of natural law - as citizens within a nation adhere to common law. Fracture of the law by any party entails superior Will over the environment, and thus detracts from the value of universal Freedom itself. As one party shifts its level of Freedom, it repels the levels of Freedom that other parties have. Eventually, you are left with centralized liberties that breach commonalities, while the majority live under a more steady (and impoverished) institution. This process is cyclical and collaterally destructive.

    The atmosphere of law, money, and power is intertwined and tangled in a country where "Presidents" are selected, rather than elected, where the majority is financially shackled while the minority is whipping the enslaved, where academic institutions are governed and dissolved by an emphasis of monetary expenditures devoted to destruction, and where progress is always promised but never attained. Oppression propagates itself in the visage of Freedom, equality, and prosperity.

    In my futility, I propose Distributism:

    Distributism, also known as distributionism and distributivism, is a third-way economic philosophy formulated by such Roman Catholic thinkers as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc to apply the principles of Catholic Social Teaching articulated by the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum and more expansively explained by Pope Pius XI's encyclical Quadragesimo Anno According to distributism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (indirect socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in Chesterton's statement: "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."

    Essentially, distributism distinguishes itself by its distribution of property (not to be confused with redistribution of capital that would be carried out by most socialist plans of governance). While socialism allows no individuals to own productive property (it all being under state, community, or workers' control), and capitalism allows only a few to own it, distributism itself seeks to ensure that most people will become owners of productive property. As Hilaire Belloc stated, the distributive state (that is, the state which has implemented distributism) contains "an agglomeration of families of varying wealth, but by far the greater number of owners of the means of production." This broader distribution does not extend to all property, but only to productive property; that is, that property which produces wealth, namely, the things needed for man to survive. It includes land, tools, etc.

    Distributism has often been described as a third way of economic order opposing both socialism and capitalism. Some have seen it more as an aspiration, which has been successfully realised in the short term by commitment to the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity (these being built into financially independent local co-operatives and family owned, small businesses), though proponents also cite such periods as the Middle Ages as examples of the historical long-term viability of distributism.

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    Private property

    Under such a system, most people would be able to earn a living without having to rely on the use of the property of others to do so. Examples of people earning a living in this way would be farmers who own their own land and related machinery, plumbers who own their own tools, software developers who own their own computer, etc. The "co-operative" approach advances beyond this perspective to recognise that such property and equipment may be "co-owned" by local communities larger than a family, e.g. partners in a business.

    In Rerurm Novarurm, Leo XIII states that people are likely to work harder and with greater commitment if they themselves possess the land on which they labour, which in turn will benefit them and their families as workers will be able to provide for themselves and their household. He puts forward the idea that when men have the opportunity to possess property and work on it, they will “learn to love the very soil which yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of the good things for themselves and those that are dear to them.” [9] He states also that owning property is not only beneficial for a person and their family, but is in fact a right, due to God having “...given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race”. [10]

    Similar views are presented by G.K Chesterton in his 1910 Book What’s Wrong with the World. Chesterton believes that whilst God has limitless capabilities, man has limited abilities in terms of creation. As such, man therefore is entitled to own property and to treat it as he sees fit. He states “Property is merely the art of the democracy. It means that every man should have something that he can shape in his own image, as he is shaped in the image of heaven. But because he is not God, but only a graven image of God, his self-expression must deal with limits; properly with limits that are strict and even small.”[11]
    Guild system

    The kind of economic order envisaged by the early distributist thinkers would involve the return to some sort of guild system. The present existence of labor unions does not constitute a realization of this facet of distributist economic order, as labour unions are organized along class lines to promote class interests, whereas Guilds are mixed class syndicates composed of both employers and employees cooperating for mutual benefit.
    Banks

    Distributism favors the elimination of the current private bank system, or in any case, its profit-making basis. This does not necessarily entail nationalization, but could involve government involvement of some sort.

    Distributists look favorably on credit unions as a preferable alternative to banks.
    Anti-Trust Legislation

    Distributism appears to have one of its greatest influences in anti-trust legislation in America and Europe designed to break up monopolies and excessive concentration of market power in one or only a few companies, trusts, interests, or cartels. Embodying the philosophy explained by Chesterton, above, that too much capitalism means too few capitalists, not too many, America's extensive system of anti-trust legislation seeks to prevent the concentration of market power in a given industry into too-few hands. Requiring that no company gain too great a share of any market is an example of how distributism has found its way into US government policy. The assumption behind this legislation is the idea that having economic activity decentralized among many different industry participants is better for the economy than having one or a few large players in an industry. (Note that anti-trust regulation does take into account cases when only large companies are viable because of the nature of an industry, but favors many participants over few, whenever possible.)
    Social theory

    -The human family

    Distributism sees the trinitarian human family of one male, one female, and their children as the central and primary social unit of human ordering and the principal unit of a functioning distributist society and civilization. This unit is also the basis of a multi-generational extended family, which is embedded in socially as well as genetically inter-related communities, nations, etc., and ultimately in the whole human family past, present and future. The economic system of a society should therefore be focussed primarily on the flourishing of the family unit, but not in isolation: at the appropriate level of family context, as is intended in the principle of subsidiarity. Distributism reflects this doctrine most evidently by promoting the family, rather than the individual, as the basic type of owner; that is, distributism seeks to ensure that most families, rather than most individuals, will be owners of productive property. The family is, then, vitally important to the very core of distributist thought.
    Subsidiarity

    Distributism puts great emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity. This principle holds that no larger unit (whether social, economic, or political) should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit. Pope Pius XI, in Quadragesimo Anno, provided the classical statement of the principle: "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do."[2] Thus, any activity of production (which distributism holds to be the most important part of any economy) ought to be performed by the smallest possible unit. This helps support distributism's argument that smaller units, families if possible, ought to be in control of the means of production, rather than the large units typical of modern economies.

    Pope Pius XI further stated, again in Quadragesimo Anno, "every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them."[5] To prevent large private organizations from thus dominating the body politic, distributism applies this principle of subsidiarity to economic as well as to social and political action.
    Society of artisans

    Distributism promotes a society of artisans and culture. This is influenced by an emphasis on small business, promotion of local culture, and favoring of small production over capitalistic mass production. A society of artisans promotes the distributist ideal of the unification of capital, ownership, and production rather than what distributism sees as an alienation of man from work. This does not, however, suggest that Distributism favors a technological regression to a pre-industrial revolution lifestyle, but a more local ownership of factories and other industrial centers. Products such as food and clothing would be preferably returned to local producers and artisans instead of being mass produced overseas.
    Social security

    Distributism favors the elimination of social security on the basis that it further alienates man by making him more dependent on the Servile State. Distributists such as Dorothy Day did not favor social security when it was introduced by the United States government. This rejection of this new program was due to the direct influence of the ideas of Hilaire Belloc over American distributists.

  2. #2

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    I like Nisbet's intro. and Hillaire Belloc's The Servile State, which I understand to be the stepping off point for distributism but as that book puts it itself it was a period of history which is gone, it cant be reproduced or reintroduced or reformed into existence because it happened organically and disappeared almost as organically when the classes and economy was restructured by industrial revolution and capitalism.

    I think hat for RCs and other's its akin to aiming for socialism without the socialists or the dependences which have resulted from patenal statism, its the kind of society which appeals to cultural conservatives aversion to individualism and statism. Nice.

    Although I dont see how its anymore feasible than more socialist schemes for "democratic enterprises", "workers control", "self-management", those ideologies are long on platitudes and short on policies (I'm inclined to believe in Popper's piece meal problem solving and aversion to the "big idea", even if the "little man" prefers "big ideas").

    In anycase I think that combinations of consumerism, affluence, jobless economic growth and development, dumbing down and other social trends have just about wiped out the sorts of personal responsibility and "mindfulness" upon which all ideologies and political discourse is presupposed.

  3. #3
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Some of this sounds very close to beliefs of my own, while other parts definitely differ. Some things that strike me in a negative way.

    Distributism puts great emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity. This principle holds that no larger unit (whether social, economic, or political) should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit.
    Under such a system, most people would be able to earn a living without having to rely on the use of the property of others to do so. Examples of people earning a living in this way would be farmers who own their own land and related machinery, plumbers who own their own tools, software developers who own their own computer, etc.
    This seems very unadministrative. I question the use of these policies to society. Self-subisistence, and true self-determination, are very demanding missions that give the practioner little room to do much else. That includes thing that alter the course of society as a whole. It is no mere coincidence that the cultures with the most individual self-subsistence are the most primitive and have the smallest populations, and the most modern and populous cultures have the list individual self-subsistence.

    And then this...

    Distributism sees the trinitarian human family of one male, one female, and their children as the central and primary social unit of human ordering and the principal unit of a functioning distributist society and civilization. This unit is also the basis of a multi-generational extended family, which is embedded in socially as well as genetically inter-related communities, nations, etc., and ultimately in the whole human family past, present and future. The economic system of a society should therefore be focussed primarily on the flourishing of the family unit, but not in isolation
    I wonder how the distributists feel about homosexuality.

    EDIT: Oh yes, and this idea also faces an obvious problem concerning the central whos and hows. How is this productive property going to be distributed and who's going to see to getting it done?
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Some of this sounds very close to beliefs of my own, while other parts definitely differ. Some things that strike me in a negative way.





    This seems very unadministrative. I question the use of these policies to society. Self-subisistence, and true self-determination, are very demanding missions that give the practioner little room to do much else. That includes thing that alter the course of society as a whole. It is no mere coincidence that the cultures with the most individual self-subsistence are the most primitive and have the smallest populations, and the most modern and populous cultures have the list individual self-subsistence.

    And then this...



    I wonder how the distributists feel about homosexuality.

    EDIT: Oh yes, and this idea also faces an obvious problem concerning the central whos and hows. How is this productive property going to be distributed and who's going to see to getting it done?
    To be honest a proper distributist wouldnt have anything to say about homosexuality, its besides the point.

    Distributism is to do with a time and place, context specific, it pays homage to a time post-Roman empire, when cultural Christianity was causing the dissolution of slavery and agrarianism afforded for self-supporting households and small communities. It would be very close to Jefferson's utopia of independent yeoman farmers.

    Urbanism, factories, production beyond the scale of cottage economies, all that is anathema to distributism, it is underpinned by a conservatism which is both hostile to individualism and statism, loathing capitalism often more than socialists do but for reasons of scale, industrialism and cultural contradictons.

    You're right that it does hold out for a more hardship or intense production with less free time, less leisure time, no leisure time and no conspiscious consumption, infact almost premodern, but Belloc and others would argue that the these conditions of hardship and vigor made for less bureaucracy, less statism, less official corruption and no jobless growth or unemployed, dependent, emotionally immature and therefore cruel, violent, mindless households and communities.

    Its an honest acknowledgement, you can either have this warts and all or the alternative warts and all, no perfectionism or utopianism here in distributist world.

    BTW the EU runs in theory on the principle of subsidiarity.

  5. #5
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    To be honest a proper distributist wouldnt have anything to say about homosexuality, its besides the point.
    It's not uncommon for someone to wrap their philosophy in a general principle, and then buck the same principle in the details. I was thinking we may potentially have one of those cases here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Distributism is to do with a time and place, context specific, it pays homage to a time post-Roman empire, when cultural Christianity was causing the dissolution of slavery and agrarianism afforded for self-supporting households and small communities. It would be very close to Jefferson's utopia of independent yeoman farmers.
    What good is it then? Policies for the past are inaffectual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Urbanism, factories, production beyond the scale of cottage economies, all that is anathema to distributism, it is underpinned by a conservatism which is both hostile to individualism and statism, loathing capitalism often more than socialists do but for reasons of scale, industrialism and cultural contradictons.
    Sound like Luddites. Also sounds a bit like a play on the noble savage, though in this case we have the noble agrarian.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    You're right that it does hold out for a more hardship or intense production with less free time, less leisure time, no leisure time and no conspiscious consumption, infact almost premodern, but Belloc and others would argue that the these conditions of hardship and vigor made for less bureaucracy, less statism, less official corruption and no jobless growth or unemployed, dependent, emotionally immature and therefore cruel, violent, mindless households and communities.

    Its an honest acknowledgement, you can either have this warts and all or the alternative warts and all, no perfectionism or utopianism here in distributist world.
    It is honest to say there is no utopia, and of course I agree. However, I do not agree with the specifics that I bolded in the quote. To claim we are free of those thngs prior to the industrial state is more nostalgic than accurate. The parts I colored blue are things I do not believe are inherently bad, and the removal of which is therefore not inherently good.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  6. #6

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    I guess it could be a case of luddism, on the other hand I tend to think of it more as consistent conservatism, rejecting not just aspects of modernism, such as welfare statism or dependency, but the whole deal, monopoly planned economies.

    I tend to believe as you say about the ineffectual nature of old ideas in new contexts, on the left the people who proposed such social change Marx attacked as Utopian.

    Can I ask you what you consider good about either statism or bureaucracy, I'm unsure either have many redeeming features, they are the unintended consequences of other promising concepts or ideologies surely.

    The reason why Belloc suggests statism and bureaucracy have arisen is that industrialism and the economy have proven so successful, superabundance frees people from their basic hardships but frees them to what? With the free time people are troubled by and foster grievances which never enter their mind when the priority is assuring basic needs are met.

    There's an implicit undersanding of Maslows hierarchy of needs but instead of considering progress towards the pinnacle of self-actualisation to be welcome, something to be opened up to as many people as possible, it is instead considered, at the very best, "a virtue to few, a vice in many". This is not necessarily my opinion, however I understand how Belloc and other like minded individuals are conceptualising these things and their meanings, given that I can understand, even emphathise.

    The other great aspect of this social criticism is that masses of people have become displaced, this surplus population of dependent, unneeded and unoccupied individuals (individualised the atomised, disdainful sense of the word) is considered a problem. Not just because they could become corrupted by losing self-respect, self-reliance or competence but because the scorn that others feel for them and their state of being, the malice it gives rise to, is in turn corrupting too.

    The policies, like subsidiarity, are interesting and some of them are worthy, realising an entire economy, nation or society which conforms to the distributivist schema? I dont believe that's likely, it would require a voluntary, popular, public adoption of a kind of steady state existence of simplicity, intentional communities styled upon monastic living or the Amish or something.

    If it were to have a hope of enduring, like any social vision other than the muddled, mixed up status quo, it would have to be "spontaneous" or rather organic in its development and couldnt be decreed into existence without being something different altogether.

  7. #7
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Can I ask you what you consider good about either statism or bureaucracy, I'm unsure either have many redeeming features, they are the unintended consequences of other promising concepts or ideologies surely.
    They are unintended. They however are not the product of ideologies, they are the product of necessity to a people who are driven to grow their population and advance their technology. That drive is not a particular ethos and it is not cultural specific. It appears to be human. The emergence of bureaucracy and the state are found more in the infrastructure than the superstructure. If you destroyed the bureaucratic state in a society this large and complex, I tell you one would organically restablish in little time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    The reason why Belloc suggests statism and bureaucracy have arisen is that industrialism and the economy have proven so successful, superabundance frees people from their basic hardships but frees them to what?
    Well, again, I don't think the develop is that conscious, it's not based that much on an acknowledgement of success.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    With the free time people are troubled by and foster grievances which never enter their mind when the priority is assuring basic needs are met.
    At this point, me and Belloc simply have to agree to disagree, because we have hit a difference of subjective morals and aesthetics. If he prefers ignorance, and think ignorance can be achieved through constant preoccupation, then that's his choice. I personally would like to keep my leisure time, my options, and my existential quandries. It is desirable to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    There's an implicit undersanding of Maslows hierarchy of needs but instead of considering progress towards the pinnacle of self-actualisation to be welcome, something to be opened up to as many people as possible, it is instead considered, at the very best, "a virtue to few, a vice in many". This is not necessarily my opinion, however I understand how Belloc and other like minded individuals are conceptualising these things and their meanings, given that I can understand, even emphathise.
    Then we are hitting one of the practical, pragmatic problems of policy. Different people have different opinions. How are you going to please as many people as possible, as much as possible? For all that you choose not to please, how are you going to keep them from messing up your policy? Because I do not like ignorance proposed here, I would be one attempting to mess up that policy, if for not other reason than to please myself.

    I don't find self-actualization bad. God help me, I'm about to sound like a modernist or a futurist (which I detest), but I also think the path of our development has the potential to eventually allow for significantly more people to self-actualize. Now, if you've seen my thoughts on the future, you know they are pretty grim, which is why I said "potentially". But our civilization has the potential to provide us with the best living we have yet known, if we took the right steps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    The other great aspect of this social criticism is that masses of people have become displaced, this surplus population of dependent, unneeded and unoccupied individuals (individualised the atomised, disdainful sense of the word) is considered a problem. Not just because they could become corrupted by losing self-respect, self-reliance or competence but because the scorn that others feel for them and their state of being, the malice it gives rise to, is in turn corrupting too.
    Sort of as I was referencing above, the forces that make these problems also have the power to unmake them, and provide prosperity beyond what we ever had. But you know, to my point and Belloc's, it must be said that calculating happiness is probably folly. I honestly have no reason to believe that on average, humans now feel worse than they did 50,000 years ago.

    I also think this perspective is essentially choosing to look at the bad side of the coin. Does society engender all of these bad personal characteristics but no good ones? Is this loss of self-respect actually modesty and humility? Is this disapearence of self-reliance a byproduct of more charity? I'm not asserting one way or the other, I do not even know that the symptoms in question are actually all that present. All I am pointing out is that this may be advertently negativistic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    The policies, like subsidiarity, are interesting and some of them are worthy, realising an entire economy, nation or society which conforms to the distributivist schema? I dont believe that's likely, it would require a voluntary, popular, public adoption of a kind of steady state existence of simplicity, intentional communities styled upon monastic living or the Amish or something.
    I agree, that's not going to happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    If it were to have a hope of enduring, like any social vision other than the muddled, mixed up status quo, it would have to be "spontaneous" or rather organic in its development and couldnt be decreed into existence without being something different altogether.
    And I started this post with my observation that conditions have heretofore influenced people to orgnanically develop something quite different.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  8. #8

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    MP I've maybe not choosen my words well but Belloc would judge the emergence of statism and bureaucracy in the same way as you, infrastructurally necessary. I suspect that is indeed the case but I dont think its desirable, it just happens like entrophy.

    In the main I've got the same opinions as you do of distributivist ideas, though I think its an interesting right wing/conservative alternative to Marxism which takes for granted some of the Marxist ideas about development and internal contradictions within sociey and economy.

  9. #9
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    MP I've maybe not choosen my words well but Belloc would judge the emergence of statism and bureaucracy in the same way as you, infrastructurally necessary. I suspect that is indeed the case but I dont think its desirable, it just happens like entrophy.
    The when can rest the contention at the point of its value.

    I do not think its emergence is a bad thing.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  10. #10
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    Distributism is not about ludditism. In fact both Chesterton and Belloc critiqued such an attitude as a "blind revolt against the future". They weren't even against industry per se.

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