I don't actually know what it [Distributism] is other than everyone gets one cow apiece, and that Chesterton advocated it.
Now the thought of each of us having a cow a piece really is quite funny (my wife, daughter and I would keep our three in the basement), but it shows how easily a simple idea can be simply misconstrued.
The fact is that Distributism advocates the greatest Distribution of the means of production among the greatest number of people. Such means of production are simply forms of real wealth. Such wealth can be tangible things like land and cows, or it can be less than tangible things such as talent or the internet. Distributism is not the state controlling everything; it is not the rich owning 99% and the rest of us struggling to feed ourselves on the remaining 1%, enslaved to the masters who own even us; it is not politicians keeping a degenerate and dishonest proletariat class addicted to laziness and welfare in return for votes; it is restoring power to the basic unit of society, the family, and allowing the family - by means of mom-and-pop businesses and such - to regain control of their lives and to return to a more sane way of life.
Last night, at the ad hoc meeting of the St. Louis chapter of the Chester-Belloc Drinking and Debating Club, we had our usual mix of drinkers and debaters - which is to say, Catholics from across the political spectrum.
And to my surprise, we were able to transcend our political differences by agreeing on two things ...
- Instead of criticizing Capitalism as Capitalism, we agreed that its current form in the U.S., which my friend Tom Richard calls Corporatism, is dreadfully broken.
- Corporatism's political arm, the One Party System disguised as the Two Party System, is likewise a disaster.
People can see that clearly. This country is run by corporate interests, by bankers taking usury on the production of fiat money and taking usury on debt for non-productive loans; by CEOs looting companies and profiting by speculating on anything other than real wealth (goods and services); by the super-rich colluding with the government to force losses on these speculations to be paid by you and me, while profits accrue to them and only them.
Corporatism is what both Capitalism and Socialism eventually morph into. And Corporatism is killing us.
So what is Distributism? Distributism is the way to fix that. Distributism is saying, "We will not allow such power to be held by such a small group of self-serving individuals. We will not allow ourselves to become slaves of such an economy, wage slaves with our families neglected as both parents work 60 or more hours each outside the home. We will not allow our government to remain in the hands of the greedy, who are ruining this country for their own benefit. We will not allow the moneyed interests to crush the human spirit."
How does Distributism do this? Not by giving everybody a cow. Distributism, as it now exists, is not exactly "three acres and a cow".
It is more like three acres and a computer.
For computers, if anything, are widely "Distributed". Everybody has a computer - either a laptop, a tablet, a cell phone. And everybody can access anything anywhere and publish anything anywhere. Yes, there's a down side to this. For example ...
... but the fact remains that Distributism exists today and right now in the field of Information Technology.
Within my lifetime, we have gone from a society where information was monopolized by a few large corporations owning almost all media outlets, to a society where you can find out anything at any time on your own; you can also publish anything at any time on your own, at almost no cost or capital investment.
Of course this ease of access means there's a lot of garbage to wade through - as well as an explosion of cat pictures, bad arguments and porn - but people know about Distributism today only because of the Distributist revolution in Information Technology. Colleges won't tell you about it; big publishers won't approach Chesterton or Belloc or any of the Distributists; TV and Radio certainly won't go there.
We are learning about Distributism because of Distributism. And that alone shows how much we need it.
Distributism is working in the fields of publishing and video and music and communication and in many fields that will give us the opportunity to recover Distributism in the economy as a whole. It is not hard to understand, if you simply look at how it's working around us right now on the internet.
It is not a pipe dream; it is not owning a cow or having your cow jump over the moon.
It is simply the principle of bringing power back to the family and sanity back to the economy.