Back in 2008 I discovered the theory of Distributism and wrote a blog post on it (during a former blog life). A recent article at The Huffington Post that contrasted the land distribution model of ancient Israel (allowing for the equitable distribution of land – the predominant means of production in an agrarian society) with libertarianism and subsequent Facebook discussion reminded me of it. With some slight adjustments here’s what I wrote upon the discovery of this alternative to capitalism and socialism that caught my attention. It’s a good reminder for myself because I too often get caught up the muddle of the prevailing norms rather than other possibilities.
I am a little embarrassed that I did not discover Distributism earlier. I have long thought socialism and capitalism to be poor economic models, but am supportive of a free market (though when equated with capitalism, I critique it). The ideal in my mind is a larger spread of the ownership of the means of production through the encouragement of many small businesses and co-operatives. State control through full socialism does not represent my ideal and whilst I believe a welfare system is a better idea than unfettered capitalism that centralizes capital into the hands of a few, thus creating larger and larger booms and busts, I still feel there is an element of injustice to it… but in the current market I haven’t been able to formulate a better overarching solution that encapsulated my ideals. Distributism does exactly that. It seeks to fairly spread the means to produce wealth rather than wealth itself. The production of the latter is the responsibility of the individual and groups who own the means of production.
Distributism is my economic theory of choice as it reflects my ideals… I’m embarrassed because it has been around so long, having been born out of Roman Catholic interpretation of some Papal encyclicals that have addressed economics in the world. Distributism was born from thinkers like G.K Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. I don’t understand how I’ve lived for so long holding both pure socialism (Communism) and capitalism at arms length and championing a voluntary spread of the means of production in a free market through business models such as co-operatives without discovering Distributism.
From how I’m looking at it, it solves the problem I have always had with most economic theories. Most economic theories deal with ideas at a macro level that ignore the nuances of the micro-level (small communities and individuals). Distributism, as a voluntary movement within a free market, addresses that issue as it encourages an understanding of the value and the dignity of the individual beyond being simply an economic unit in a capitalist system that centralizes the means of production into the hands of a few, thus creating an imbalance between purchasing power and production in a free market, or a socialist system that centralizes the means of production into the hands of the state, thus creating an unjust system that does not duly reward the individual for their efforts.
I believe Distributism represents a way forward in the current economic climate that shows that there are gaping problems in the current system.
To find out more about Distributism – the light in my political and economic tunnel – check out these links. It’s better than me trying to explain it.
http://distributist.blogspot.com/2007/08/introduction-to-distributism.html (a great introduction)
http://www.medaille.com/pracdist.htm (A fabulous essay and a must read!)