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distributismNo one really disagrees with Distributism, do they? No one would really prefer Wal*Mart to a family-owned general goods store, or McDonalds to the little pub down the street. We are just pulling the wool over our eyes if we think Distributism could actually happen, the anti-Distributist says.

Well, look at it this way. Do you agree that our primary source of produce should be local farmers, rather than corporate agriculture? (Yes, you say.) Do you believe the crafts—carpentry, metalworking, etc.—should be as localized as possible, ensuring diverse regional aesthetics survive in our increasingly globalized, standardized economies? (Naturally.) Do you think access to non-urban living should be widely available and sustainable? (Of course.) Would you rather buy your couch from the local furniture-maker and have it last generations, as opposed to buying one from Ikea and plan on picking up a new one in a decade or so? (Certainly you would.) Then congratulations—you are a Distributist!

“But I don’t want to set the factories on fire, or have government thugs running around pulling the chairs from under CEOs!” you say, “I just do not particularly care for crowded cities or Columbian blood-coffee.” Like I said, you are a Distributist. Chesterton himself urged the Distributist program to be gradual—

Do anything, however small. Save one out of a hundred shops. Save one croft out of a hundred crofts. Keep one door open out of a hundred doors; for so long as one door is open, we are not in prison.

—and mostly apolitical—

We have formulated questions to be addressed to Parliamentary candidates. We think that something can be done through Parliament to make small ownership easier to gain and to hold. But we are not a Party, and our main effort must be always outside Parliament. As we remarked last week, it was the Land League, and not the Nationalist Party, which gained peasant proprietorship for Ireland. When our League has grown to like dimensions it may do as much for Englishmen.

So what, then, does the Distributist intend to do?

First of all, once you can accept that you are, indeed, a Distributist, get in the habit of calling yourself a Distributist. Read Distributist literature. Tell your friends about Distributism. We cannot resign Distributism to the dustbin if we’re expecting everyone to come to the same conclusion independently. (Though once you embrace Distributism you will see that we are, indeed, all coming around to a Distributist way of looking at the world—it is just a matter of piping up.)

farmers-market-local-produce-520Once you have got the Distributist Review set as your homepage, start committing to buying local produce. If you live outside the city, that should be easy enough. If you live inside the city, there’s almost certainly a community garden or coop in the area. It will be full of hippies. Go and talk to them about Distributism. Farmers markets are invading urban spaces. Sniff them out. Dump your bank and join a credit union. Get your shoes fixed at the local cobbler rather than tossing them out. It’s the small things that add up. And you do not have to go out and spend your life’s savings on a solar panel. Distributism is meant to make the good life more affordable—more affordable, in fact, than the not-so-good life.

If you can afford to do so, you might even consider moving outside the city. Excepting maybe New York, most major American cities have a rural area less than an hour outside the city boundaries. You could commute to work! Convince your wife/husband/children that you would all be better off living in the peace and quiet of semi-rural upstate. Once there, you can live the good Distributist life. Grow a garden, jar your own preserves, and take up woodworking. And do your best to pass it on to your kids. The next generation’s narrative is not going to be looking for adventure in the city—it will be looking for peace in the country.

As Distributism expands—which it will—there will need to be a Distributist League. The Distributist League’s chapters will serve as a forum for members to raise concerns in the community, direct one another toward local producers to patronize, and share tips on how to live Distributism. It would also hold regular crafts fairs and farmers markets for independent artisans and agrarians. What Distributism needs more than anything is such an available supply of locally made and locally grown goods. Independent, local production, not only will those remaining craftsmen and farmers be able to compete with large corporate entities, but they will be able to take on apprentices to ensure their trade survives into future generations.

When Distributism receives national attention, it is not going to be only with Conservatives or Liberals, Democrats or Republicans. There are going to be Distributists on both side of the fence, both lobbying their parties to go for the “Distributist vote.” The Distributist voter will want international trade agreements that respect human rights, closing big business tax loopholes, the end of corporate welfare, and more accountability for abuses in the finance sector—at least. Alongside the Distributists’ efforts to live the Distributist lifestyle and to help others to do so, tightening up existing laws may well be enough. But then we will have the more proactive Distributists, who will insist on larger things like tax breaks for local farmers, higher tariffs on goods from mega-exporters (China, India, Japan), and more trust/cartel-busting laws. All of that amounts to decentralizing, and thereby authentically liberalizing, the markets.

Istockphoto image of a farm, barnI am certain this is not the best introduction to Distributism anyone will find, but it seems to me that there are more anti-Distributists these days than reasonably informed persons with no idea what Distributism is. That is a good thing: It is better to have detractors than to be anonymous. But now is the time to start explaining the Distributist program. No doubt there are Distributists who disagree with mine, and they may well be right. I have only been involved with Distributist thought for about three years, and there is bound to be veterans with criticisms for my assessment. Still, what I think Distributism needs now is not to inflate itself to attract attention, but to put together a plan for action. If you, dear reader, have any ideas about how to implement the Distributist model—if you want to tell me why my ideas are rotten and what we should do instead—if you want to recommend a do-it-yourself water purification system, a company that needs to be reigned in, a local farmer that needs our support—write it in the comments section. Or, even better, draw it out in an article and publish it on an e-journal or on a blog. We are afraid to call ourselves Distributists because people will think we are loony, and people think Distributists are loony because they only hear about Distributism from its detractors. We need to get the conversation started. That is how it always begins.

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21 replies to this post
  1. Thanks, Michael. This is great. I’m sure it’s having read way too much basic Austrian economics as a kid, but I still find distributism hard to grasp. I very much like your take here. Thank you.

  2. Alas, you rather inadvertently have placed your pinky directly of the main flaw in “getting to” a Distributist position. Compared to the mass production/mass distribution of the Big Box stores, being a self-conscious and practicing Distributist is damned expensive.

    Farmer’s markets — higher prices than the WalMart grocery. Where are the average people going to shop?
    Local cabinet makers (I hired one a while back to do a job in my bathroom) — twice as expensive as the crud at Home Depot.
    Village bookstore — prices way, way over getting same item from Amazon.
    And so on, ad nauseum.

    Like my old econ professor used to hammer into us, “it ain’t the up-front income, it’s the available cash flow”.
    Middle-class folks (to say nothing of the working poor) rarely can afford the extra expense any more than they can afford to “go green”. It seems Distributism is a rich-mans hobby and a working-stiff’s folly.

    That is not in absolute terms, mind, but there is simply no way to avoid the effect of “the market” on people’s economic decisions. Sure, everyone would like a better world. But, who of us is willing to pay for it? Or, rather, are there *enough* of us to make a difference?

    All honor to Chesterbelloc for trying to come up with something more humane than what they saw all about, but my preference is more for the William Roepke approach (as a free-market economist, he also favored Unions or Workingman’s associations, IIRC).

    My ignorance has been remarked upon before, but from my viewing, Distrtibutism is one of those Nice Ideas which partake more of faith than of fact, but, heeding Oliver Cromwell’s advice, I could be wrong.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been reading a lot of Russell Kirk lately, and though I think he has a lot to offer, he does not appear to understand economics. I think Kirk was certainly a distributist who abhorred socialism, but didn’t care much for capitalism either. There is a certain romanticism in conservatism and especially traditional conservatism. Sure the idea of no Walmart and only having mom and pop stores sounds lovely. Once upon a time most retail establishments were mom and pop. Why did this change? Because the big box stores offer lower prices, and though people like the idea of mom and pop stores and hate the idea of big box stores, they still prefer the lower prices. There is a mom and pop grocery store just down the street from me and a Krogers a few miles farther away. Do I like the idea of the mom and pop store? Well yes, I like the idea of this little neighborhood grocery standing against Krogers. Do I shop there? Only occasionally when I have very few items to buy. Are the mom and pops stores prices lower? No they’re higher than Krogers. Do they have more selection? No they have less. Do they have better quality? Probably in the meat counter. Otherwise they sell the same stuff Krogers does just at higher prices and with less variety. And their produce isn’t as fresh. So of course I shop I Krogers. I’m not willing to pay more for the romantic idea of the small grocery even though I like the idea. My wife and I are both civil servants and though we want for nothing on our salaries we still must be frugal. (We work in the local court system and both report to Republican elected officials lest any trolls on this website attack us for being civil servants). Frugality is a conservative virtue. Additionally, I suspect this local grocery does not pay their employees any more than Krogers and if anything pays them less and has worse benefits. I do not know of any modern economists that are distributists. Nor do conservative distributists ever explain how such an economic system could be brought about. Kirk never answers this question. It could only be brought about by government coercion and regulation, by banning or excessively taxing big business to the favor of small business. It would take the sort of government power and intervention that Kirk in particular and conservatives in general abhor. I think Kirk and the author of this article think it can be brought about by consumers choosing to support small business over big. However, most consumers simply are not willing and many simply cannot afford to pay a premium for a romantic ideal they may like.

  3. I’m not a distributionist. That’s hogwash ecomonics put together by people who have no economic education. I’m a Conservative but I’m not one that lives in the 19th century. I’m for what makes economic sense, and while employing something like 1 and a half million people nationwide and providing the lowest prices possible, Walmart and the similar box stores (who also employ millions) are by far a net economic plus. There is an efficiency that is unmatched by the mom and pop shops, and efficiency translates into an increased standard of living for all. From Forbes siting a Federal reserve Study:
    http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/09/walmart-retail-economy-biz-commerce-cx_tvr_0110walmart.html

  4. I dubbed it microcapitalism some time back, as distributism sounds like ‘redistribution’ to many. Think Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, the blacksmith, the shopkeeper. As for those things which are not readily done that way, the novel _Winter’s Tale_ describes a newspaper run on the same model as a New England whaler, where everyone has shares, and those are shares of the profit, and that is how they are paid. One starts with a certain amount, and gains more through seniority, providing extra value to the company (in the old sense of the word) and so on. These are not shares to be gambled on the stock exchange. This seems to be a more equitable, worker-owned (the workers should -own- the means of production) system that retains the motivations of the free market.

  5. Manny, what do you mean by economics education? I hope it is not one sided or ideological. Economics doesn’t just mean the Austrian School. I think many contemporary distributist authors and writers know rather a lot about economics (and not just one school), including more applied and real life areas (not just theoretical microeconomics, for example).

    Conservatives, in the traditional sense, should be interested in more than the material standard of living. Indeed, for the conservative, the permanent things are generally more important, and distributism is just another name for an economic position that prioritises them.

    I liked this article, although I think Michael Davis could have written about corporate welfare. I think corporate welfare, as Kevin Carson and others have shown, is the biggest thing holding back distributism. Without corporate welfare and privileges it may be that next to no large businesses and many medium sized businesses wouldn’t exist, as Kevin Carson has argued (he has also argued that Walmart’s so called efficiency, which Manny brings up, is largely because of state intervention). I think that the best way to begin the journey to distributism would be, on the one hand, the personal initiative Michael mentions, and, on the other, rolling back corporate welfare. Other than that I’d propose currency and banking reforms that encourage small and community lending and mutual banking, and land reforms (perhaps the land value tax) to discourage land monopolisation and speculation.

    I do agree with Steve Schaper that distributism is not the best name. Not least it places too much emphasis on the means of distributive ownership. What distributism is really about, as I mentioned, is the permanent things. It is about faith, families, communities, regions, voluntary associations, culture, nature and the environment, and so on. More family and worker owned businesses are important, but this is just one means for some aspects of distributism, and it is a means that shouldn’t be read as that no one should ever work for a wage, as is sometimes implied.

  6. I wish i could count all the countries where i listened to people mourn their town’s bespoke butcher or grocer, until it became clear that they shopped year long at the cheapo store, to save twenty cents here and there, and used the more costly local shops only at holidays and only for treats. believe me, they’ll all sign your petition!

  7. And if you live in the City (St. Louis–is there another?), don’t ostentatiously walk your Dalmatian or Pit Bull down Lindell Boulevard as if you were out in the country; get a CAT, an urban pet, and keep him inside your house where he will be safe and loved.

  8. @Wassexman, who asks:
    “Manny, what do you mean by economics education? I hope it is not one sided or ideological.”

    Quite the contrary. It’s distributionism that’s an ideology, as is Marxism. Economics is a learned discipline, not quite a science but close. It requires measurements, analysis and modeling. The people who thought up distributionism (Chesterton, Belloc, several Popes) while perhaps noted theologists had absolutely no economic education, and from what I can tell, understanding. Even today, no economist that I know or have heard advocates or even speaks of distributionism. I’ve take four college level courses in economics and distributionism has never come up. Look through a few survey economics text books and none that I have even mentions distributionism. The people who I have seen advocate distributionism are all Liberal Arts and social science disciplined. Though I have respect for them in their areas of expertise, they surely don’t know economics. Which economist that you have seen advocates distributionism?

    What people who advocate distributionism, or actually any economic ideology, fail to understand that economics is a dynamic phenomenon, and what the distributionist have done to create this ideology is take a snapshot of a moment in time when it fit their ideal and hope to recreate it. That’s metaphorically delusional. At a basic level you can’t recreate it when you are dealing with billions of people economically interacting across the world, and by the very policies advocated are fundementally regressive.

    By the way I’m also going to say that the economics proposed by politicians of both the left and the right during election time are also ideology and not sound economics. That’s why you see that when politicians get into office, they almost never really implement exactly what they advocate. It’s a bit of a con game, but the general public all think they understand ecomonics.

  9. Manny, are you familiar with post-Austistic economics movements and the problems shown in contemporary neoclassical economics by those from Piero Sraffa to Steve Keen (dubious methodology, absurd assumptions, inconsistencies, and so on)? I would not necessarily put too much confidence in neoclassical economics. And if, as I would guess, by economics you especially mean the Austrian School, I don’t think this school, whatever its merits (and it has them) can be said to be free of ideology. Personally, as I said, I have seen a lot of distributist and related authors who have a great knowledge and interest in economics, especially in applied areas like knowledge of contemporary finance, knowledge of technological issues and the scope for appropriate, human scale technology, knowledge of various reforms and the areas they would be applied in, and so on.

    But I think, more fundamentally, you are confusing the strict discipline of economics with issues of policy and the economy in a wider sense. What one would learn in college and what economics the discipline tends to concern itself with is basic human economic interactions and behaviour, as well as trying to understand the nature and outcomes of different economic institutions and policies. This stricter idea of economics does not concern itself with broader aims and ideals like distributism, but there is nothing necessarily contrary to it in distributism and nothing stopping distributists learning and making use of academic economics (although I’d personally suggest they take neoclassical economics with a grain of salt and leaven it with the insights of heterodox economists like the Austrians, Post-Keynesians, Institutionalists, and the like). I think, at least, you will have to show that distributism is fundamentally opposed to what you are referring to as economics.

    You talk of the dynamic nature of economics, but you yourself imply a position that doesn’t take into account the role of the state in bringing about contemporary capitalism or keeping it in being, nor the fact that there are many different economic paths that could have been taken. You imply globalised state-capitalism was and is inevitable. This is all deeply questionable. One of the reasons economics is dynamic is because it does greatly interact with politics and with society. Changes in law, changes in ideals and policies, can have a great effect on the structure of the economy.

    To criticise distributism for being regressive is really to just beg the question as it is part of the whole point of distributism to question the ends and ideals of our contemporary societies and economics. Distributism is, in a sense, economics as if the permanent things mattered, and mattered more than economic growth and the proliferation of consumer goods. So this is precisely what is in issue between distributism and a position like yours, so it doesn’t do much good to just label distributism regressive and leave it at that.

    • Wessexman, I’m not sure what school of economics if any I learned in school. It was economics. I’m sure you can find anyone to throw rocks at any discipline. There are still people who advocate socialism. If I am confusing the interaction between policy and economics, well as you point out later in your comment, there is a relationship and effect. We seem to both agree that policy will have an effect on economic outcome. Now to be fair, I have never seen a study of the totality of the effects of distributism on economic outcome. Probably because no economist takes it seriously. I have seen economic studies of the impact of Walmart on both the local and national economies and most certainly Walmart is a clear net plus on both. Distributism seems to have an animus to large businesses and corporations. I am speculating that distributism in an economic study would be detrimental. But I don’t think that speculation would be off the mark. Let me go through a few of what comes to mind.

      (1) Whatever policy you would advocate would be a drag on business, and therefore a drag on employment, and a drag on the national economy, and in time a reduction in standard of living for everyone. On a fundamental level, a person working at a small mom and pop shop, either as owner or employee, works far more hours at a far more intense pace for less pay than people at large corporations. That is undeniable. A shift to mom and pop shops makes life harder for most people.

      (2) Someone said it was for prices being twenty cents less at a Walmart. Now that’s a joke. Mom and pop shops do not have the scale of economy to keep prices lower. What you see as only twenty cents now is because of the competition they are getting. Take away the competition or force prices higher on the box stores and corporations and you will get substantially higher prices, coupled with the lower wages and benefits. Do you know of a mom and pop shop that offers health insurance? Few at best. And I’m not even going to speculate on what you have to do to deprive those stores the freedom to an unhindered market. That’s about as unconservative as it gets.

      (3) Let’s assume you implemented this drag on large businesses, and it didn’t send shock waves through the economy that resulted in a depression, which might be a likely outcome, the drag on the economy would compound over time. I don’t know how to do the calculation, but even if it was a modest .25% less in GDP every year, compounded it would total a significant reduction in standard of living over a generation. Look at how we have felt the reduction in standard of living in the very paltry years from 2008 until now. You think it would be beneficial to replace large businesses with mom and pop shops? I’m willing to bet that very few people who experienced the change would agree with you.

      Here’s a challenge to distributists: get an independent group of economists to do a thorough, full study of the totality of the impact of those policies and let’s see what they come up with as an outcome. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

      • Manny,

        Let me offer some answers to your points.

        1. Yes, distributism would lead to slower economic growth, less of a proliferation of consumer goods, and a slower pace of technological development. This is obvious. It is a part of state-capitalism that there must be constant reinvestment and growth of capital, because there is such pressure on the owners of capital to increase their accumulations lest they shrink just by standing still. But I do not think this lower growth necessarily a bad thing. Distributism is just traditional conservatism applied to the economic sphere. It is economics as if people and the permanent things matter. Therefore, whilst it is well aware of the need to fulfil the material side of our needs, it is also remembers the importance of faith, the human scale and human dignity, family, community, region, nature and the environment, rural-urban balance, and so on, including the important economic interactions involved. Fundamentally, for the conservative, there is more to life and society than economics.

        But I don’t see why distributism need lead to increased unemployment., It would, probably, be less susceptible to business cycles and would allow easier access to capital and land if someone did wish to start their own business.

        2. Well, according to Kevin Carson, Ralph Borsodi, and others the efficiency of big businesses and even many medium sized ones is due largely to state intervention. This is not the place for an in depth discussion on that, but, as you seem to imply that this efficiency is natural, you would presumably have no objection to rolling back all corporate welfare and privileges. Then we can see whether Tesco or, for you Americans, Wal Mart is as efficient as you think.

        And no, nineteenth century liberalism is the ideology of dogmatic free markets, not conservatism. Conservatism was critical of such ideology. Russell Kirk accused those who held such views of resembling Marxists in their social materialism (indeed, Von Mises once called himself an entrepreneurial Marxist) and overwhelming focus on material prosperity and the economy. Certainly, the traditionalist conservative doesn’t want an overweening and interfering state, especially central state, and he is in general in favour of economic freedom, but he is not a dogmatic free marketeer. Distributism, I think, can fulfil these requirements. It can be pursued – perhaps must be because of its stress on decentralisation and subsidiarity – without too meddlesome interference by the state.

        3. This point largely relies on distributism destroying the economy, which I’m not sure why one would assume it. Yes, it would change the economy, but I don’t know why it must destroy it. You seem to just imply, somewhat ironically after your earlier remarks on dynamism, that anything that significantly diverts from contemporary state-capitalism cannot work.

        The discontent with the economy since 2008 has been within a state-capitalist economy. If people’s jobs and homes were more secure, if there was less consumerism, if the economy and technology were more tailored to the human scale, if families and communities and society and culture were healthier and stronger, then it seems likely that even a lowering of the level of economic growth and proliferation of consumer goods would not cause the discontent you refer to. There is far more to man than his economic side, and, indeed, even his economic side is wrapped up in his social, cultural, and moral sides. So, discontent over lower growth today is as much about one’s social standing and the like as it is about the purely material.

        But you do draw attention to the important problem of transition. If this were pursued too radically or ideologically, then it could cause disruption and much economic and social damage. Distributism, if it is ever pursued by a government, should be pursued cautiously and gradually.

        • OK, now I’m seeing where you’re coming from. If you acknowledge that distributism is less efficient and provides lower growth, then my argument as to which is better economically is moot. Let’s say that’s resolved. And before I go any further, yes I’m against corporate welfare, but politicians are what they are. But you have to be cautious about all corporate welfare. There are incentives given to keep businesses from moving or attracting them. A locality has to determine what is the best level of taxation for a business, and whether lowering it provides a net plus. But true corporate welfare is inexcusable.

          So if distributism is not intended to provide the most productive economy, and is formulated to achieve an ideal life, then it’s akin to the Southern Agrarians. Or perhaps a more extreme analogy would be the Amish or the Hasidic. All three are looking back to some ideal and trying to live as if that ideal could be recreated. Well, I already said in one of my earlier comments, that’s an impossibility, unless you wall yourself up like the Amish. Even so, I think your ideal is short sighted. What you’ve done in your ideal, sort of like the Southern Agrarians, is compartmentalize only part of the life, but I doubt whether you can envision the life in totality. Take for instance leisure time to learn; how many people won’t have time to read and learn, or even go off to Universities? What about technology that accelerates communication of art and literature? I assume there were people at the dawn of the printing press bemoaning that monks were no longer going to write by longhand. What about life expectancy and amelioration of diseases, and appreciating the comforts of life or the ability to travel? The majority of people today in developed countries live the standard of living as aristocrats did in the 19th century. There is no such thing in life as static history or static economy.

          One last point. That big busness is more efficient because of state intervention, no, that can’t be true. Someone would really have to prove that to me. If that were true, then communism would have worked.

          • As I said, distributism is simply traditional conservatism applied to economics. It means that faith, family, community, nature, and rural-urban balance, and so on are important considerations as well as material prosperity. It is a strange sort of conservatism that places material prosperity and economic growth as higher priorities than the permanent things.

            But distributism does not mean a pre-industrial economy. It is a black or white, or false dichotomy fallacy to suggest that one must be pre-industrial or state-capitalist. Certainly, it will mean a slower pace in technological development. It will also mean the development of more decentralised, appropriate, human scale technology – which I see as mostly a good thing. But there such technologies which can developed on a wide scale. I would suggest the works of Prince Kropotkin, Lewis Mumford, E.F Schumacher, Kirkpatrick Sale, amongst many others on this point. There is no need to think that distributism won’t fulfil the actual material needs of man, so far as any economic system can, although it won’t have the focus on consumerism and massive push demand of modern marketing and advertisement and the like. Again, though, this is no place to have deeply technical conversations about appropriate technology and the like, but if you wish the most accurate interpretation of distributism, then I would try and read and evaluate this tradition of appropriate technology of which E.F Schumacher is perhaps the most famousn spokesman (although it is a tradition that continues to this day, and you shouldn’t view the technology of the 70s, when Schumacher died, as the final word).

            Your point about economic intervention and the USSR seems fallacious (again, the fallacy of false dichotomy). This assumes that the intervention is the same. It isn’t. State-capitalism is a completely different kind of system. One where there is a mix of private or corporate ownership and control and massive state intervention. The government does not usually directly control companies, and there are still lots of markets, however distorted they are, however distorted they are. It is just not the same. The basic use of intervention in state-capitalism is to provide demand for the products of the investments of ever increasing accumulations of capital. This, obviously, wasn’t necessary in the USSR. This doesn’t mean that there are not massive structural problems in state-capitalism. This is what leads to the business cycle. It is also, if the likes of Kevin Carson are to believed, is what leads to ever increasing state intervention and will one day lead to a complete economic collapse, when there just can’t be any more state intervention.

            As I said, this is not the place for such an in depth discussion. I would suggest Kevin Carson as the best place to start if you wish to properly see and evaluate this argument on the role of the state in contemporary capitalism.

          • I think more could be said on this passage:

            “I assume there were people at the dawn of the printing press bemoaning that monks were no longer going to write by longhand. What about life expectancy and amelioration of diseases, and appreciating the comforts of life or the ability to travel?”

            As I said, distributism does not mean pre-industrial.

            But I don’t think the conservative will have a simply starry-eyed view of contemporary technological development. This is not only for the obvious reason that technology has relatively little effect on the permanent things (and then it is usually negative in its modern form) – to the traditional conservative the comforts of life are God and family and community and things like good food and drink, nature, and art, and so on; electromagnetic gadgets must feature rather low down on these comforts. It is also because the developments of modern technology (with the partial exception of those in the fields of sanitation and healthcare) have usually had as many disadvantages in most fields as advantages. For example, we can now get access to music from all over the world and we can listen to music whenever we wish, even on the move. But this has come at the price of great damage to traditional folk and live music, which would be part of life in every village and town. It has also seen a decline in the quality of popular music. Or take the car. We can now travel all over the country in cars, but we now also need cars. Not only do relatives and friends now tend to live further away, but towns and cities and the country at large is built around the car. Even to go to work or the shops we tend to require the car (or some other long distance transport).

            Leopold Kohr, the decentralist economist, once made an insightful point about modern technology. He noted that for all our technological developments, we haven’t, on average, that many more luxuries than the past. That is because most of our technology becomes a necessity – the car being an obvious example.

            Besides, worship of technology is just not the correct perspective, I’d say. Such technophilism should be dubious to the conservative because it suggests that what is important is ever increasing technological progress and not the permanent aspects of human nature, developed in every time and place. It should be dubious to the Christian as it smacks of transhumanism and the belief that the end of man is his earthly, technological development and not the spiritual and moral. It would make it strange that the Bible speaks so little of internal combustion engines or solar power, surely.

  10. “Dump your bank and join a credit union.”

    Tsch! Credit unions were changed into banks decades ago in the US and are not one whit different.

    For that matter, none of the suggestions of this post address the fundamental requirement of distributism, that people work for themselves, not for an elite, no matter how far outside the city they live nor whether they buy or patch their shoes.

  11. There is nothing remotely conservative about the Austrian school of economics. As Peter Hitchens said about Reagan and Thatcher “They mistook 18th century liberalism for conservatism”. Real conservatism is about is about defending Church, Monarch and Country. The Austrian School is a very unChristian way of doing economics. We need to defend Traditional Christian ways of doing business. Lets get back to rendering unto caesar what it is caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

  12. Mr. Davis, I think you have it entirely correct. You are a distributist! You just don’t have to start all over since the distributists would say you can keep what you already have (even the Democrats and Replublicans-which is a really funny way you put it) but make it where fathers, mothers and children can more family life. So telecommuting is helping that. We would work on improving the familiy’s quality of life, and make that first, then quality of product second, then we are already reaching a peak with Wal-Mart and such on perfecting making a profit. An honest bravo there.

    But since we already attuned ourselves and generating wealth so well, maybe there’s room for fitting in the other two qualities since everyone also agrees that home and integrity comes first. I think we just forgot we were all distributists and got caught up in the current success. I’m glad you sent out a request to start the conversation. I’m hoping to work out practically some of the issues myself and it ironically sounds much like you just said. I’m not a hippie though but a committed Catholic. Contact me if you like. I think part of what needs to happen is get smart people like yourself to try a few things. (I suspect you already had despite how crazy it may sound to some. I include the fact that I think you are a good conservative). I don’t want to go further since I’m just starting out and need to work with a guy smarter then I who is already a good friend.

    You may already be aware that you have to read all the Church’s official social documents. first to get some of the spirit behind Chesterton and Belloc. There’s much more out there now so you might look at the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” written by the ” Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace”.

    I think a deep Faith in Christ and an in-depth understanding of the issues being addressed probably makes it easiest. I think people think that the church can’t speak of such secular things and so never venture to much further to look on. But the best thinkers in the church have been philosophizing for so many centuries that, with a special grace, have managed to abstract enough to avoid fumbling over things they can’t speak expertly upon. Just stick with the higher church documents. Hint, most people who read this stuff like to think the church defends their own train of thought like capitalism or socialism. Its a new way of thinking when you let them but-in a little so some new rays of light shine in. Lastly, for those that don’t know, distributism is better thought of as “distributive justice” rather then in terms of distributive wealth. I think if we narrow its definition to economy the meaning slips away.

    Sincerely,

    Ed Hamilton

  13. Mr. Davis, I think you have it entirely correct. You are a distributist! You just don’t have to start all over since the distributists would say you can keep what you already have (even the Democrats and Replublicans-which is a really funny way you put it) but make it where fathers, mothers and children can more family life. So telecommuting is helping that. We would work on improving the familiy’s quality of life, and make that first, then quality of product second, then we are already reaching a peak with Wal-Mart and such on perfecting making a profit. An honest bravo there.

    But since we already attuned ourselves and generating wealth so well, maybe there’s room for fitting in the other two qualities since everyone also agrees that home and integrity comes first. I think we just forgot we were all distributists and got caught up in the current success. I’m glad you sent out a request to start the conversation. I’m hoping to work on the practical level some of the issues myself and it ironically sounds much like you just said. I’m not a hippie though but a committed Catholic. Contact me if you like. I think part of what needs to happen is get smart people like yourself to try a few things. (I suspect you already had despite how crazy it may sound to some. I include the fact that I think you are a good conservative).

    You may already be aware that you have to read all the Church’s official social documents. first to get some of the spirit behind Chesterton and Belloc. There’s much more out there now so you might look at the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” written by the ” Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace”.

    I think a deep Faith in Christ and an in-depth understanding of the issues being addressed probably makes it easiest. I think people think that the church can’t speak of such secular things and so never venture to much further to look on. But the best thinkers in the church have been philosophizing for so many centuries that, with a special grace, have managed to abstract enough to avoid fumbling over things they can’t speak expertly upon. Just stick with the higher church documents. Hint, most people who read this stuff like to think the church defends their own train of thought like capitalism or socialism so that can be a challenge. Its a new way of thinking when you let them but-in a little so some new rays of light shine in. Lastly, for those that don’t know, distributism is better thought of as “distributive justice” rather then in terms of distributive wealth. I think if we narrow its definition to economy the meaning slips away.

    Sincerely,

    Ed Hamilton

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