What is Distributism? A Controversial Alternative to Socialism and Plutocracy

Distributism is the name given to a socio-economic and political creed originally associated with G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Chesterton bowed to Belloc’s preeminence as a disseminator of the ideas of distributism, declaring Belloc the master in relation to whom he was merely a disciple. “You were the founder and father of this mission,”Chesterton wrote in 1923. “We were the converts but you were the missionary…. You first revealed the truth both to its greater and its lesser servants…. Great will be your glory if England breathes again.” In fact, pace Chesterton, Belloc was merely the propagator and the populariser of the Church’s social doctrine of subsidiarity as expounded by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum novarum (1891), a doctrine that would be re-stated, re-confirmed and reinforced by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno (1931) and by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus annus (1991). As such, it is important, first and foremost to see distributism as a derivative of the principle of subsidiarity.

Since there are many who will be unaware of terms such as “subsidiarity” or “distributism,” it might be helpful to provide a brief overview of the central tenets of each. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church subsidiarity is discussed in the context of the dangers inherent in too much power being centralized in the hands of the state: “Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” Put simply, the principle of subsidiarity rests on the assumption that the rights of small communities—e.g., families or neighborhoods—should not be violated by the intervention of larger communities—e.g., the state or centralized bureaucracies. Thus, for instance, in practical terms, the rights of parents to educate their children without the imposition by the state of “politically correct” school curricula would be enshrined by the principle of subsidiarity. Parental influence in schools is subsidiarist; state influence is anti-subsidiarist.

“Subsidiarity’” is an awkward word but at least it serves as an adequate definition of the principle for which it is the label. Distributism, on the other hand, is an awkward word and an awkward label. What exactly does it advocate distributing? Are not communists and socialists “distributists” in the sense that they seek a more equitable distribution of wealth? Yet Belloc argues vehemently that distributism is radically at variance with the underlying ideas of communism and socialism. It is for reasons of clarity, therefore, that modern readers might find it useful to translate “distributist” as “subsidiarist” when reading Belloc’s critique of politics and economics.

Belloc’s key works in this area were The Servile State (1912) and An Essay on the Restoration of Property (1936), whereas Chesterton’s The Outline of Sanity (1925) and his late essay, “Reflections on a Rotten Apple,” published in The Well and the Shallows (1935), represent further salient and sapient contributions to the distributist or subsidiarist cause. It should also be noted that Chesterton’s novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, is essentially a distributist parable.

Put succinctly, distributism was the name that Belloc and Chesterton gave to the version of subsidiarity that they were advocating in their writings. Thanks largely to their efforts, and those of others such as Father Vincent McNabb, distributism became very influential in the period between the two world wars. At the peak of its influence, the Distributist League had branches throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Its influence crossed the Atlantic under the patronage (and matronage) of Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day and came to prominence in the policies of the Catholic Worker Movement in its formative years. There are also significant parallels between the ideas of the distributists and those of the southern Agrarians, though the similarities should not be overstated. Similarly, there are parallels with the vision of “economics as if people matter” outlined by the economist E. F. Schumacher in his bestselling book, Small is Beautiful.

Unlike the socialists, the distributists were not advocating the redistribution of “wealth” per se, though they believed that this would be one of the results of distributism. Instead, and the difference is crucial, they were advocating the redistribution of the means of production to as many people as possible. Belloc and the distributists drew the vital connection between the freedom of labor and its relationship with the other factors of production—i.e., land, capital, and the entrepreneurial spirit. The more that labor is divorced from the other factors of production the more it is enslaved to the will of powers beyond its control. In an ideal world every man would own the land on which, and the tools with which, he worked. In an ideal world he would control his own destiny by having control over the means to his livelihood. For Belloc, this was the most important economic freedom, the freedom beside which all other economic freedoms are relatively trivial. If a man has this freedom he will not so easily succumb to encroachments upon his other freedoms.

Belloc was, however, a realist. Indeed, if he erred at all it was on the side of pessimism. He would have agreed with T.S. Eliot’s axiomatic maxim in “The Hollow Men” that “between the potency and the existence falls the shadow.” We do not live in an ideal world and the ideal, in the absolute sense, is unattainable. Yet, as a Christian, Belloc believed that we are called to strive for perfection. We are called to imitate Christ, even if we cannot be perfect as Christ is perfect. And what is true of man in his relationship with God is true of man in his relationship with his neighbor, i.e. we are called to strive towards a better and more just society, even if it will never be perfect. Therefore, in practical terms, every policy or every practice that leads to a reuniting of man with the land and capital on which he depends for his sustenance is a step in the right direction. Every policy or practice that puts him more at the mercy of those who control the land and the capital on which he depends, and therefore who control his labor also, is a step in the wrong direction. Practical politics is about moving in the right direction, however slowly.

In practical terms, the following would all be distributist solutions to current problems: policies that establish a favorable climate for the establishment and subsequent thriving of small businesses; policies that discourage mergers, takeovers and monopolies; policies that allow for the break-up of monopolies or larger companies into smaller businesses; policies that encourage producers’ cooperatives; policies that privatize nationalized industries; policies that bring real political power closer to the family by decentralizing power from central government to local government, from big government to small government. All these are practical examples of applied distributism.

As the foregoing practical examples would suggest, distributism/subsidiarity is not an esoteric ideal without any practical applicability in everyday political and economic life. On the contrary, it is at the heart of politics and economics. In all politics and economics there is the tendency for power to become centralized into the hands of fewer and fewer people. Subsidiarity can be seen as the antidote to this centralization, i.e. it is the principle at the heart of the forces of decentralization, the principle that demands the rights and protection of smaller political and economic units against the encroachments of central government and big business. Other practical examples can be given.

The constitution of the European Union is fundamentally centralist in its very nature, so much so that all reference to “subsidiarity” in EU documents amounts to a scandalous employment of Orwellian doublethink. As such, what has become known as “Euro-scepticism,” the view that the European Union is a gross monolith that needs to be dismantled, is fundamentally subsidiarist. Similarly the rights of rural cultures to enjoy their traditional ways of life are essentially subsidiarist, whereas urban-driven legislation banning traditional rural pursuits is a violation of subsidiarity. In the United States the right to gun ownership and in the United Kingdom the right to hunt foxes would fit into this category. (It is not a question of ‘gun control’ or ‘animal rights’ but of the right of rural cultures to choose their way of life without the imposition of unwanted urban value-judgments.) The continual erosion of states’ rights within the United States and the consequent increase in the power of the Federal Government and the Supreme Court is a violation of subsidiarity. Many more examples could be given but these should suffice for our present purposes. In short, and in sum, distributism as a variation of the principle of subsidiarity offers the only real alternative to the macrophilia and macromania of the modern world.

Editor’s note: The column first appeared June 12, 2014 in Imaginative Conservative and is reprinted with permission.

Joseph Pearce

By

Joseph Pearce is Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN. He is also the co-editor of the St. Austin Review, executive director of Catholic Courses and series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions. His book on Alexander Solzhenitsyn received the prestigious Pollock Award for Christian Biography.

  • Bedarz Iliaci

    Stock market is the engine of bigness. Thus, to achieve distributist goals, the stock market needs to be curbed.
    The stock market enables large-scale anonymous ownership that is typical of 21C capitalism. You own units in a mutual funds that owns some stock of big corporations. You don’t know and don’t care what exactly you own. Is this true ownership that the Catholic Church asks the State to protect?
    True ownership is a public and stable relation between a person and the thing owned.
    The good social consequences of private property absolutely require this kind of true ownership and not stock ownership by masses that Conservatives favor.

    Conservatives mislead others and themselves by assuming that stock ownership would satisfy people and make them into responsible owners. But, merely receiving mutual fund dividends, does not turn a man into a responsible owner of a well-defined thing. Things that are physical and not digits in some computer.

    • DE-173

      “Stock market is the engine of bigness. ”

      No. The stock market is the provider of continuity and liquidity. The state is the “engine of bigness”.

      http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2014/03/24/how-a-community-bank-tackles-dodd-frank-s-19-000.html?page=all

      “The stock market enables large-scale anonymous ownership that is typical of 21C capitalism.”

      If I’m anonymous, how are my dividends paid? How do the companies whose shares I own send me disclosures, proxy statements, notices of shareholder meetings?

      Seriously, people should think before they write.

      • david

        and others should read before they comment

        • DE-173

          Especially the ones that offer nothing.

      • Washington DC is entirely owned by Wall Street.

        Anonymous markets are always bad.

        • DE-173

          I just showed indisputably that there are no “anonymous” markets.

      • Bedarz Iliaci

        Anonymous means that you are not publicly known as the owner of some particular thing. Your neighbors have no idea what precisely you own (nor do you have).

        • DE-173

          It’s none of your business what I own.

  • thebigdog

    Distributism has no real world practical application. However, it may have a place in a post-apocalyptic civilization — and the Obama / Shea doctrine seems to be leading us there.

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      Obama/Shea doctrine? What is this? As in Mark Shea?

    • The seeds of this civilization’s death are to be found in the mortal sins of pride, greed, and lust.

      • thebigdog

        Fallen human nature is the foundation of all sin… individual or collective.

        • True enough. So why encourage the fall?

          • thebigdog

            What are you babbling about?

            • The current system is set up specifically to reward sin and punish virtue.

              • thebigdog

                Yes, Democrats have become Satan’s minions… let’s change that.

                • And the Republicans too. It will change- when the Catholics recolonize from below the Southern Border.

                  • DE-173

                    The people coming here are not very Catholic, and what litle Catholic identity they have is rapidly lost after entry.

                    I do love however how I’m lectured that it is incumbent upon me to joyfully pay taxes to the government, but illegal aliens have no duty to respect the sovereignty asserted by that very same government.

                    I’m still waiting for some lachrymose blither from the USSCB to take up the cause of “comprehensive tax reform”, in order to bring “undocumented taxpayers” “out of the shadows”.

                    I’m not holding my breath after Thomas Wenski’s inane public supplication to the EPA.

                    • Guess you never read Mark Chapter 12 either.

                    • DE-173

                      I read it-as it was written- and not how you want it to read.

                      Of course this is your third attempt to impute authority that doesn’t exist in this fantasy.
                      .

              • DE-173

                You need to consider the temptation of Christ in the desert. It’s not the “system”, it’s sin.

                Because “distributism” is a contrived fantasy,it would require dictatorial power to implement, and at that point the dictator would be one of the Kingdoms presented to Christ.

                • We once had a Vicar of Christ.

                  • DE-173

                    Had? If we don’t your faith is in vain.

                    Might as sign up with Protestants who believe in Christ but also believe that he abandoned his Church to total corruption, despite his promise not to leave us orphaned. That’s a form of cognitive dissonance I can’t deal with.

                    In any case, your response is a classic irrelevancy.

                    • Since the Reunification of Italy, the Pope has been stripped of his material world power. I would much rather that power return, as I see no hope left in the so-called
                      “liberty” that has replaced God in our world.

                    • DE-173

                      Another nonsequitir. The Pope still is the head of state at the Vatican. If you don’t have something on point, just concede.

      • DE-173

        There’s seven deadly sins, not three, and no sin is mortal without full consent of the will and adequate time for reflection. Envy is running wild as is sloth.

        • Those three are the ones that are truly running wild. Envy and sloth as well, but one can make the argument that envy and sloth are actually inspired by greed (the possibility of making money without working, such as off of investments, inspires envy and sloth).

          • DE-173

            They all run wild. Just because you have selective indignation means nothing.
            The Democrat party (and good parts of the Republican party as well) run on envy.

            • The Democrat party runs mainly on lust.

              • DE-173

                No. Envy. I had enough old Democrats in my familty who cared about nothing else as long as they got their dose of rhetoric against the “rich”.

                • The Democrats in my family just want to have their lust and abortion to solve the problems that lust causes.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Is T.D. at ZeroHedge a Distributionist?

    • DE-173

      Not likely.

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-29/priest-banker-and-spook-walk-vaticans-money-laundering-rabbit-hole

      There’s a lot ZeroHedge gets right, but I think that if they have any religious sensibilities, they are millenarian Protestants, or perhaps some cult like Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      1.You don’t talk about fight club.
      2.You don’t talk about fight club.[note 2]
      3.When someone says stop, or goes limp, the fight is over.[note 3]
      4.Only two guys to a fight.
      5.One fight at a time.
      6.They fight without shirts or shoes.
      7.The fights go on as long as they have to.
      8.If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.

      — Fight Club, pages 48–50[2]

      • CadaveraVeroInnumero

        Posted with much tongue in cheek. Though ZeroHedge is always informative with how the world works when fiat currency seems to be the only game on the field. Visit it often.

        In spite of the effort here, Distributionism still lacks a grounding philosophy – outside of offering up what it is not.

        The question is still Lenin ‘s (to the extent that he confiscated it): “How then should we live?”

        The picture that the larger economy should only be an extension of the family is only that, just an image. It is not analysis.

        One of the glories of Capitalism, is how it freed the *family economy” to work out its true and full potential. In short, it liberated the family’s creative energy from the disabling confines of clan and tribe. Second sons and daughters gained the opportunity to establish their own households which called upon their own persons and skills.

        And this:Distrubutionism has yet to detail its relationship with currency regimes.

        • DE-173

          I rather figured it was jest.

        • The grounding philosophy of distributism? Jesus Christ.

          • DE-173

            Really? When did he pen any missives on this?

            • He didn’t- but the Evangelist Luke penned two whole books on it. The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

              • DE-173

                First it was the Lord, now it’s Luke and the truth is neither of them are the authors of distributism.

                Stop with the compulsive grafitti, Blasphemer.

                • Go read the Gospel of Luke and tell me once again, how you’re not supposed to take care of the poor.

  • RufusChoate

    There is a serious revolution underway in the way both corporations and small businesses accomplish work and achieve success that is distributed, independent and autonomous micro-firms working together creatively to achieve success. I am not sure that Distributism is dead as some content but only now becoming fulfilled as a concept. Homeschooling. the advent of 3-D printing and fabrication and world wide connectivity might go far to undermine the monolithic state and industry.

  • In th US the repeal the 16th and 17th amendments are essential. Any other tack only furthers the power of the state and the few over the majority. The US as intended by the origninal founders died with their addtion.

    • Art Deco

      Pttah. Magical thinking.

      • DE-173

        Repeal might be wholly impractical, because we may have already created a fiscal blackhole in the last 100 years and few people realize that we are nearing the event horizon; but the 16th and 17th amendments have been the providing the mass that’s created that finest example of a “certain landed estates that impede the general prosperity” (aka the federal government).

        • Art Deco

          ME is trading in a common bit of fiction, which is that the antecedent Constitution (produced over several months of bargaining and deliberation among gentry politicians in 1787) was a masterpiece of institutional engineering and all our problems are derived from our deviation from their vision.

          It was actually an adaptation of already existing charters, architectural features within it were not works of art but compromises between competing plans, and the amendments to it were a consequence of social dynamics which were not a function of the institutional amendments.

          You can repeal the 17th Amendment. The result will certainly be nothing earth-shattering, just as nothing like that is definitively traceable to its adoption. What will change is some characteristics of the personnel in the Senate: people adept at building relationships in state legislatures will replace those whose talent is in managing fund-raising and publicity campaigns. You might get better Senators and Senators more attuned to what vexes state legislators. You’re not going to get ‘small government’, becuase legislators are not in favor of that. You’ll get more Al d’Amatos and fewer Chuck Schumers.

          You have an income tax because there was a popular movement for one and a movement for one among elected officials sufficient to clear the hurdles to a constitutional amendment, and little interest in repealing it. It doesn’t prevent ‘small government’ either. It just alters the revenue sources for whatever government you have. Replacing it won’t give you small government, just the use of more regressive taxes.

          Its a staple of a certain sort of starboard discourse that our problems are readily soluble if we just return to Mr. Madison’s precise institutional vision. I’m not exaggerating. Abracadabra, repeal the 17th amendment and none of the forces favoring centralization operate. Sorry, that’s magical thinking.

          • DE-173

            If I were told that one could be repealed and the other not, I would favor the repeal of the 16th.
            The income tax was sold the way most grand schemes are sold (see Healthcare), the creation of “adequate” revenue for the central government, efficiency and minimal inconvenience.
            It has not produced any of the promised results (as our soon 17 Trillion dollar official debt attests to), and has produced metastatic corruption. It’s so bad that “the service” (the preferred reference of the IRS) now arrogantly tells us that it has lost two years of incriminating emails.
            This is a lie, and impossible. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of IT knows about the “grandparent, parent and child” method of preserving data archives and that data exists in at least three places or it doesn’t exist at all.
            The best objection to a drect individual tax by the central government is that it violates subsidiarity or in technical economic terms, produces assymetric bargaining. This is an abstaction until you see it. When my Aunt called me earlier this spring about a deficiency notice she received from the IRS, she was terrified. It turned out that it took the IRS 2 years to make this inquiry, and the assessed deficiency of ~600 bucks was comprised of a 1099-INT that wasn’ received from a financial institution and a 1099-R that the IRS apparently couldn’t read as having had ~500 withheld. Septugenarians that have always played by the rules shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of fear-especially when it is the result of the taxing agency’s incompetence.

            • Income tax is merely interest on money borrowed from, and owned by, the federal government.

              Unless you’re willing to fight against usury, there is no rational reason to fight against income tax.

              • DE-173

                Income tax is merely interest on money borrowed from, and owned by, the federal government.
                Theodore, you have said a great many silly things. but this counts among the silliest.
                1.) Even if you are paid in chickens or goats, the federal government will assess a tax liability. The economic benefit doctrine specifically excludes payment in legal tender as a requirement to create a tax liability.
                2.) The federal government does not issue U.S. legal tender, a private banking called the “federal reserve” does.

                • 2) All stock in the federal reserve is owned by the US Treasury.

                  • Art Deco

                    I do not think it is of much consequence, but I believe the majority state in all 12 Federal Reserve banks is held by their member banks.

                    • DE-173

                      The consequence is that Thedore made a silly statement (taxes are interest) based on his general inability to comprehend economics and having been disposed of, he responds with a factual error.

                      http://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/about_14986.htm

                      I don’t talk about the technical aspects of music because my knowledge is limited to the ability to distinguish between a bass cleff and treble cleff. Theodore would do well to admit he is as ignorant of economics as I am about music and abstain from making pretentious, imprudent and erroneous statements, so he might actually learn something and be disabused of his ignorance.

                  • DE-173

                    WRONG!

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  • Thérèse

    The practice of Distributism is nothing more than the economy of the family extended to the larger society. As such, it is the only economy that builds a just society; all others pit men against one another in a race for advantage by any means.

    Observe that families which operate according to subsidiarity produce healthy and happy human beings; those that attempt to operate purely according to self interest produce the social ills we see today. In the end analysis, Distributism is an economic expression of the love for our neighbor demanded by Christ in the gospels.

    • DE-173

      “The practice of Distributism is nothing more than the economy of the family extended to the larger society.”

      Which is unworkable. There is no love, no kinship, no intimacy and NO TRUST among strangers.
      “In the end analysis, Distributism is an economic expression of the love for our neighbor demanded by Christ in the gospels.”
      In the end analysis, Distributism is a fiction, that has never existed, does not exist and will never exist. It is the cold fusion of ignorance and pride.

      • Thérèse

        Neighbors, not strangers. A ‘society’ of strangers is no society at all. If we do not wish to know (and thus come to love) our neighbors, we cannot expect to participate in a Distributist economy.

        • DE-173

          If we do not wish to know (and thus come to love) our neighbors, we cannot expect to participate in a Distributist economy.

          For those of us that live in the real world of sinners; we subscribe to the idea that good fences make good neighbors.

          The reason that we cannot expect to live in a “Distributist” economy is that it would only work where it is unneeded. Here, its a Rube Goldberg contraption, at best.

          • Art Deco

            I think you’d have to know what a Distributist economy is. The Servile State was a meditation on certain trends in economic life in society, not even a sketch of an alternative state.

            • DE-173

              I don’t even think adherents know what it would be-which is why I put in in quotes.

          • “good fences make good neighbors.”

            A distributist concept if I’ve ever heard of one.

            • DE-173

              Not unless they were borrowing from my Great-grandmother (born 1889, who we believe quoted her mother, who was as best we can figure, born some time in the late 1850’s) without proper attribution.

              • Distributism, being a natural state, I’d suspect predates them all.

                • DE-173

                  Nothing that exists as a fantasy is natural.

                  • Except the fact that Distributism existed for a thousand years under the guilds.

                    • DE-173

                      Just stop it. Guilds may have been embraced by distributists fantasizers, but that’s a single element.

                    • It’s a necessary element. Without the paternal mentoring, an employee is just another tool to be used and thrown away, instead of an apprentice who will one day work alongside the master.

      • “Which is unworkable. There is no love, no kinship, no intimacy and NO TRUST among strangers.”

        Why deal with strangers?

        • DE-173

          Because I am not a mechanic, my two uncles who were have passed on, and I have no friends who are mechanics, and in order to maintain an automobile in working order, I need to contract for this skills.

          • Why not make a new friend when you do so?

            • DE-173

              You mean like the friends you made at the time-share?

              • It’s precisely because I was stupid and dealt with people who lived 3000 miles away who didn’t give a rip about actually being honest, that was the mistake with the time share- and exactly why I’ll never buy from somebody who isn’t willing to look me in the eye again.

                But that question makes me wonder if you resemble this remark:
                http://maryvictrix.com/2014/05/15/keeping-secrets/

      • kmk

        Communism never existed either in its defined form, but it sure killed a lot of people. All systems (Socialism, Capitalism, Facism, etc.) exist on a gradient. You cannot state with any credibility that Distributism won’t work. What is your fear?

        • DE-173

          .”You cannot state with any credibility that Distributism won’t work ”
          Since I understand how economic decisions are made (almost thirty years in finance, BS Economics, MBA, Finance and Accounting, CPA, CGMA, multiple insurance and financial planning designations) I can.
          What “credibility” do you offer?

          • kmk

            More than 30 years of real life experience staying out of debt and now enjoying retirement with no financial burdens. This is without even resorting to my resume. Please try to stay on topic, you seem to have a non-Catholic agenda. Why do people like you spend so much time at a Catholic website?
            “. . . do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7

            • DE-173

              You asked about “credibility”. I presented my educational and professional bona fides.

              You cannot refute those credentials, (you’ll note “credibility” and “credentials” have the same latin root) so you offer that you are without financial burdens and retired, which is as more a function of age and not credentials.

              The real anti-Catholic trolls are the PHOs that come on here peddling nonsense as doctrine and attacking the Catholicity of others who wont subscribe to their nonsense.

              Next time you quote Scripture, look in a mirror. There’s a log in your eye.

              • kmk

                No, I didn’t ask about your credentials. And, I tried to state mine simply, with some sarcasm, sorry you didn’t understand. Most people are in debt. I not only avoided debt, but I am also enjoying financial feedom in my retirement. I have a Master’s degree and enjoyed more than one career, but I usually avoid talking about myself and try to stay with the topic, which I expect others to do as well.
                You appear to be upset that someone could possibly question your authority. This is a public forum. Try not to be so sensitive, this is about God, not you. Peace.

                • DE-173

                  No I’m upset that there’s so much economic ignorance out there.

                  • kmk

                    I certainly agree re the abundance of economic ignorance. And even though I’m rather ignorant re the concept of distributism, it deserves respectful consideration in keeping with the edification of God.

                    • DE-173

                      Let me get this straight. You are “rather ignorant re the concept of distributism” but yet you believe it “deserves respectful consideration”. In other words, you haven’t even engaged in the necessary due diligence required to take a position on the matter.

                      Do you always sign blank checks?

                    • kmk

                      I have enough knowledge of Distributism to offer opinions, but try to avoid appearing pompous on any subject, so as to keep learning and to not place barriers between myself and others.
                      I don’t care how much competence you think you have, DE, Distributism has never been practiced in real life for anyone to make the blatant negative opinion that you did. Your infantile remark made me think you have an agenda that is not edifying God.

                    • DE-173

                      “I’m rather ignorant re the concept of distributism”
                      “I have enough knowledge of Distributism to offer opinions,”

                      Get help for your cognitive dissonance.

                      “Distributism has never been practiced in real life”

                      If you don’t understansd that is Objection No. 1, then stop embarrassing yourself.

                      Now go confess your lack of prudence and calumny.

  • Art Deco

    I think you’d do well in the future to offer some precis of what this means in practical terms (over and above not harassing sport hunters and target shooters).

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  • kmk

    Subsidiarism works. Even the attempt to go toward subsidiarism is better than the feds wasting our tax dollars in their ever increasing bureaucracy. Is anyone aware of any federal program that ever did what it was proposed to accomplish? Is anyone aware of any federal program being discontinued either because it was a success or failure?

    • Art Deco

      Subsidiarism works. Even the attempt to go toward subsidiarism is better
      than the feds wasting our tax dollars in their ever increasing
      bureaucracy. Is anyone aware of any federal program that ever did what
      it was proposed to accomplish?

      Yes, the Bureau of Economic Analysis produces statistics on the state of the economy. The Forest Service puts out forest fires. The Federal Aviation Administration runs the air traffic control system. Etc. Etc ad infinitum.

      • DE-173

        ” Is anyone aware of any federal program that ever did what
        it was proposed to accomplish?”

        “Yes, the Bureau of Economic Analysis produces statistics on the state of the economy. The Forest Service puts out forest fires. The Federal Aviation Administration runs the air traffic control system. Etc. Etc ad infinitum.”
        Part of accomplishing a task is that it is done effectively, efficiently and without mission drift.

        • Art Deco

          Part of accomplishing a task is that it is done effectively, efficiently and without mission drift.

          No, because ‘effectively’ and ‘efficiently’ describe features on a spectrum of performance and relative to the performance of others (re public and private agencies). ‘Accomplished’ refers to binary states.

          It’s kind of a dumb rhetorical question on his part.

          • DE-173

            Management 101

            Effectiveness is doing the right thing. It cannot be measured through comparative statistics.

            Efficiency is doing things right. Comparative statistics are of limited us , because ithey only provide relative measures of efficiency. Think of a railroad in the steam era. You could have the best “operating ratio”, but you’d still not be measuring over what was possible after the adoption of diesel electrics power.

            It’s a rhetorical question, but given the problems with the federal leviathan it’s not “dumb”.

      • kmk

        Is that the best you can do? The BEA was created to produce statistics? The FS puts out forest fires? Many other groups also crank out stats and put out fires in the woods. You did provide one legitimate group – the FAA, but only one. My point is that more can be done, and more efficiently, the closer to home it is. Government is too wasteful and inept. Subsidiarism is also voluntary.

  • Mako

    What about solidarity? That principle is also key in Catholic social and economic doctines, is it not? One of those both-and ideas… Where does that fit into distributist thinking?

    • Aldo Elmnight

      Via charities where people willingly donate their time/money. Via laws that protect rights of individuals, esp the unborn.

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  • Holy smokes

    Very interesting! I thought about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address (in 1978) when I read this article. I would add that a very important manifestation and contemporary Distributist influence is the the idea of the Credit Union. The importance of the ‘modern money’ and the current banking system can not be underestimated in the centralization of economic power.

  • Doug

    Would a subsidiarity law prevent the owner of a small farm from selling his farm to the owner of another small farm?

  • John Smith

    The function of a quasi-governmental cartel/monopoly is not to benefit consumers.
    It is to enforce economy of scale, raise prices and discourage competition to benefit elites.

  • Don Schenk

    The Plutocrats complain that raising minimum wage would hurt the economy. But they have no problem with the fed spending $900 BILLION a year to buy bonds, in order to prop up Wall Street.

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  • Paul

    Distributism & subsidiarity are only as good as the people who practise these doctrines. For all systems depend on the human character being moral & ethical, whereby these characteristics are then extended to the immediate community and then society.
    It could be argued that Multiculturalism is also apart of subsidiarity and has a knock-on effect on Disritributism. However, Multiculturalism is nothing more than a quasi-Marxist notion that seeks to destroy cultural values of the host nation wherever Multiculturalism manages to infest.

  • Benjamin Warren

    Distributism is profoundly unjust because the graduated income tax is unjust, and anyone who disagrees ought to be threatened immediately and firmly with excommunication. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in I-II Q. 96 Art. 4 of the Summa that burdens that governments put on society ought to be “equal” and “proportionate”. Anything less is tyranny, which St. Thomas condemns in the De Regno as one of the worst of sins. When Odoacer, king of the Ostrogoths conquered the Roman Empire, he stopped the dole, and the Plebes died. This was an act of justice, and the formerly rich Romans who had lost all their money through plunder and gov’t oppression simply didn’t have the money to save lives. Anyone citing Rerum Novarum is either a man who is deeply corrupt or is a woman who has no business ruling anyway. Either way, they refuse to pay attention to what St. Thomas wrote in this section of the Summa. Rerum Novarum needs to be recognized as an error, of which popes, being infallible only rarely, can certainly be guilty. There is a chance that the pope’s current frailty is from God, for Pope Francis is deeply corrupt. Frankly H.H is a demagogue from Latin America.

    George Orwell was right when he wrote that the future of humanity is a boot stamping on a human face forever because of “Catholics” like you. Shame on Crisis!

    Woe to the truly rich who refuse to save the lives of poor, and WOE TO ANYONE WHO DARES TO VOTE FOR DISTRIBUTISM. YOU ARE A MENACE AND A BURDEN TO CIVIL SOCIETY!

  • Mariano

    Distributism is the nefarious, nominally Catholic cause that will not die. St. Thomas Aquinas in I-II Q. 96, Art. 4 of the Summa points out that the burdens that gov’t puts on society must be “equal” and “proportionate”. The graduated income tax, on which “redistribution”, (an Orwellian term), is based, is therefore obviously unjust. Some parts of “distributism,” itself an Orwellianism, are good and wonderful, but the core part of it is contrary to subsidiarity and this plain teaching of the Angelic Doctor. Therefore, Rerum Novarum, written by a Pope who was wandering in the wilderness, needs to be overturned as PLAINLY CONTRARY TO THE AUGUST WORDS OF THE ANGELIC DOCTOR. Since encyclicals are not necessarily infallible, there is nothing wrong with declaring this. Shame on Crisis for allowing this evil article to be published!

  • Benjamin Warren

    Anyone pushing distributism should be threatened with excommunication for urging the disobedience of the 7th commandment. St. Thomas in I-II Q. 96 Art. 4 of the Summa states that burdens that government puts on society must be “equal in proportion.” Another translation reads “equal” and then a short while later “proportionate.” St. Thomas’ language is clear and reinforces what Pius IX wrote in Nostis et Nobiscum, that not only are we not allowed to take the property of our neighbor, we are not allowed even to crave it. In the same encylical the venerable Pope said that “church teachings on this matter are clear.” Distributism is a democratic movement that gets whatever respectability it may be said to have from the force of the rabble. It is not respectable; it is of the devil.

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