Monday, October 30, 2006

Distributivism 101

In contrast to the economic systems of Capitalism and communism there stands a third alternative known as distributivism. Much of the following is paraphrased from Wikipedia: In the distributivist system, the ownership of the means of production are to be spread as widely as possible among the people, rather than centralized under the control of a few state bureaucrats (socialism) or a minority of resource-commanding individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in G.K. Chesterton's statement: "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists" ("The Uses of Diversity", 1921). The articulation of Distributist ideas was based on 19th and 20th century Papal teachings, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum. Distributist thought was later adopted by the Catholic Worker movement, conjoining it with the thought of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin about localized independent communities.

The critique of capitalism advanced by Distributionist thinkers is familiar to students of social theory but Hilaire Bellock, one of the founders of the movement approached capitalism from a different angle. Belloc believed that Capitalism was incapable of achieving its own economic equilibrium for two reasons; divergence from its own moral theory and from insecurity. The moral theory of capitalism is freedom, at least the acceptance that a free market will necessitate a free and democratic state. The problem with this belief is that in a capitalist system property tends to accumulate in the hands of a few owners. As these owners retain more resources they consolidate their political power to perpetuate their wealth. The state increasingly becomes a tool which the ruling capitalist class employes to retain its power by validating and enforcing so-called wage contracts, which by their nature are contracts of inequity and adhesion. The state, in theory a judge and passive observer can no longer be a neutral arbiter between the classes but rather becomes a defender of the class with the power and means of production. This seems clear to see when one considers the agenda of the present government and the extent to which corporate influence dominates the government.

Distributism promotes a society of artisans and culture. This is influenced by an emphasis on small business, promotion of local culture, and favoring of small production over capitalistic mass production. A society of artisans promotes the distributist ideal of the unification of capital, ownership, and production rather than what distributism sees as an alienation of man from work.

Speaking of alienation, I have to get back to work.

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