Awareness of Distributism
is Growing

Dateline: 12 September 2013

I've subscribed to The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener magazine for many years, and I always enjoy getting it in the mail. I was pleased to see that my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners got a little review in the current issue (pictured above), which is the yearly Common Ground Fair issue (a large printing). And I was downright surprised to see the same issue had an article about distributism.

Distributism: A Third Way is, in my opinion, not written all that well, but the fact that it's in the magazine is notable. It's an indication that more people are looking for an alternative to failed capitalism.

Unfortunately, distributism is a terribly misleading name for an economic system. It conjures up ideas of taking what's mine and distributing it to others. But that's not what distributism is all about. That's pretty much what socialism does, and we already have that to a large degree in this country.

Another unfortunate aspect of distributism is that it isn't easily explained. I've yet to find an article that neatly sums it up. And the articles that I do read, leave me with a lot of questions.

Nevertheless, it's hard for an agrarian-minded person not to have an interest in distributism. That's because it is profoundly agrarian. And it's also biblical, or at least far more biblical than capitalism ever was.

Foundational to distributist economics is the idea of decentralization. Another fundamental is the reformation of the family, and the idea that as many families as possible should should own and live on productive land and property. Vibrant small communities are also essential to the whole theory of distributism.

Many Protestants dismiss distributism because it's distinctly Catholic. Others are skeptical of it because they think it just isn't practical; that it simply won't work. And a few, like myself, are concerned that it would require too much government coercion to implement.

One thing is certain... capitalism (and the capitalist powerbrokers) will not tolerate distributism in its midst. Distributism is, after all, powerfully antithetical to both capitalism and socialism. 

But capitalism, propped up by keynesianism, has run its course. Even John Maynard Keynes knew his economic ideas were unsustainable. When confronted with the inevitable failures of his economic theory he famously quipped, "In the long run, we're all dead."  

Keynesianism, the lifeblood of modern, corporate-facist capitalism, was never a sustainable economic paradigm, and the system is coming down. Post mortems on capitalism and keynesianism are now being performed by perspicacious people all over the world. And so it is that the principles of distributism are getting a closer look. I'm glad to see it happening.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you are well aware of the irony of complaining about socialism and having had a child in the military. I guess he never once accepted a pay check or any of the benefits paid for through taxes (you know, taking what's mine and giving it to someone else).

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

Being in the military is honorable even if the officials leading the country are less than. Military service benefits others and is entirely different than getting welfare!

Now on to what I intended to comment: I have never heard of distributism. I will need to research it more. Sounds, at least on the surface, like something I could agree with but again I need to become more educated on it.

Herrick Kimball said...


My sons are all adults now. The decisions they make in life, the socialist schemes they participate in, and the industrial-world dependencies they subject themselves to are their own.

A better example to make your point would have been the state prison job I took for 13 years. The so-called work I did was, in my opinion, totally unnecessary . And the job was, from my perspective, a form of "workfare."

That, and a small government grant I got to help pay one year of college tuition back in the 1970s, is, as far as I know, the extent of my "taking what I didn't earn from the socialist American system. But I have a feeling that if we were to really look into the matter, there would be other, more subtle, examples.

It may be, as you say, ironic, that I criticize an economic system that I've participated in, but participating in the system doesn't mean I think it is ethical, and it doesn't exempt me from seeing and pointing out the errors.

We've all been born into the world system we live in and it is pretty much impossible to totally extricate ourselves from it. But we can acknowledge its wrongs and, if we are convicted about the wrongs, do what we can to limit our participation. That's the way I look at it.

RonC said...

I had to Google "distributism" and came to this:

What I can gather is that all the land in a country is divided up and everyone gets their little piece of the pie. But doesn't the piece of the pie get smaller when parents have more than two kids?

Tucanae Services said...

What is failing is not capitalism but fascism. We have been in a mostly centrally planned fascist economy since the day the Fed was created. Its only that it has accelerated since WWII.

Go back to the capitalist era of Jefferson, remove the Fed, purge the big banks, and capitalism will flourish again.

Thoughts At My Back Door said...

The entire 19th century, long before the Fed, was a history of centralized private wealth increasinly dominating the citizenry.

The problem isn't just fascism, it's the centralization of capital. Distributism is an economics of widely distribute capital.

It is not necessarily distributed land, although that is part of it. It is an economy in which the means of production and capital are widely distributed. It is an economy of ownership, not wage-work.

Distributism would oppose usury, as well. Any financial investment should, according to distributism, share risk. More like buying stock, and less like bank-lending.