Distributism and the Masculine Heart


“Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people’s property.” – G.K. Chesterton

What do the great economic theories offer man? Capitalism makes much room for man’s potential but also is too often a great enabler of greed. The de-incentives of socialism leave us to wither in stagnation. Fascism’s greatest gift to man is tyranny. All have been tried and all have left man incomplete. No economic theory can fulfill man, surely, as we cannot live on bread alone, but can there at least be some philosophy of economy that truly reflects the many facets of the human heart?

I believe that there is – but its less of an economic theory and more of a life philosophy. That philosophy is the quixotically titled Distributism. The name is a misnomer for it suggests a socialist ideal. However, in contrast to the passivity resultant in the common man when all the burden of planning is placed upon the aloof ruling elite, Distributism seeks to release man’s inner dynamo. Distributism, in short, frees the masculine heart.

Distributism represents the masculinity illustrated by the economy of Man stemming from the roots of his family. Compare this to mainstream corporate America where the sterile individualism of the Wall Street stock broker is the image of capitalism. Capitalism alone deals with utility; things only matter as they aid as cogs in the great machinations of supply and demand. Unfortunately, when capitalism is divorced from morality, the mores of faith from the cold calculations of reason, mere utility applies to more than to just objects, for even Man in all his wonder is reduced to capital. The beautiful and the miraculous of the world and of all of God’s creatures great and small is reduced to profit: numbers on a ledger and crisp hard cash, sitting pitiless and sterile in its dark vault. Corporatism in terms of the common man may be generalized as the anonymous desk jockey repeating the shifts in a cubicle at a nameless corporation, working with bigger men’s capital, serving his masters. He gets his wages, yes, and certainly they will even be fair, but he does not own his work. The property of his work does not belong to him. It belongs to his boss, and should he be fired, or even should the company relocate his branch or have to let him go in a bout of lay-offs what is he left with? Maybe a severance check if he’s lucky but for all his hard work he has worked to build nothing for himself. Whatever he has exists outside his work – his job merely a means to survive and fund other interests.

Compare this credo of corporatism to Distributism: while growth and production, that is, making a profit, necessitates work it is through full autonomy, unshackled creativity, and ownership – the ability to claim your work as your own – that makes it fulfilling. But what if a man, even a common man, could own his own work? What if he could unleash the full force of his potential as he saw fit and call the end result fully his own? As we were created in God’s image we as men seek to create things in our own. However, this requires property. To be our own masters and live under God’s rule and not man’s requires we own our own means of production so that no matter our industry – whether it be crops or cattle, watchmaking or carpentry, medicine or law – we own our own fate and what we create does not fade away as we spend our paychecks but stays within our grasp to provide for our families and to be passed down as a legacy. This is far more masculine a thing than the property-less wage worker broken like a trained horse. Instead this is man owning his vocation as a father, husband, provider and protector. This is what we were made to do. Distributism attempts to actualize all facets of human nature in its economy instead of the solitary parameter of “profitability”. 

In the words of Thomas Storck, “economic activity is meant to serve the more important aspects of life, our spiritual, family, social, intellectual and philosophical lives.” The principles of economics serve as nothing more than the means towards individual livelihood and social justice. When capitalism succumbs to unjust practices and corporatism results, it becomes worthless. Greed is not manly, it is cowardly; cornering a market and forcing out competitors isn’t clever, its anti-social. Instead, we must marry economics to social justice, adhere to the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and promote a culture where men own their work and recognize that they are producers first and consumers second. The economy that encourages men to forge their own path, own their own means of production and be free in their creativity is the economy that fosters true masculinity, opening the door for self-centered boys to become compassionate men of self-sacrifice.

I leave you with this quote from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on capital and labor, Rerum Novarum:

Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them.

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3½ Time-Outs Tuesday


Just like Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes, except it's half as long and twice as good.

1

In the face of a firestorm of internet complaints The Washington Post joins CBS in apologizing for their terrible coverage of the March for Life. Ombudsman Patrick Pexton says that the Washington Post gave an “incomplete picture” of the March for Life in both its print story and online photo gallery. Pexton writes that the Post “fell down” in its coverage of the March by failing to include any photos in the gallery that conveyed the magnitude or the “festiveness” of the pro-life crowd, instead focusing on the confrontations between a small group of pro-abortion counter protesters and passing pro-lifers on the steps of the Supreme Court.

The apology was somewhat restrained however as the ombudsman continued that the Post’s Director of Photography Michel du Cille disagrees with the criticisms of pro-lifers. “We can never please this crowd. We try for fairness to show both sides,” du Cille told Pexton. Apparently, focusing all media attention on counter-protesters and failing to illustrate the magnitude of the protest is what passes for fair news coverage today. How silly of me; of course its the pro-life crowd who’s being unreasonable.

2

Over on the Distributist Review they have a great article by G.K. Chesterton on the seriousness of salads or, more specifically, salad dressing. Its a humorous and insightful piece that addresses the bland uniformity of corporatism as evidenced by commercial salad dressings and offers a distributist alternative. I found the following excerpt to be one of the deeper and funnier parts:

Men differed in the excellence of the salads they made; but they also differed about which salads were excellent. Such was the weakness of Fallen Man that many were found to prefer their own salads; but anyhow they were their own salads. And when we have seen that, we have seen the horrid significance of the bottle of salad-dressing. By the new system, salads will be like convicts or American ladies. They will be all dressed alike.

3

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently towards various economic theories and how each may reflect human nature (or don’t as I think the case may often be) and, more specifically, masculinity. Not that I have anything against the ladies but, as a guy, I’m more concerned with the masculine aspects as they relate directly to how I live and perceive the world. More will follow on this train of thought in the future, I’m sure.

3 1/2 

Finally, thanks to Acts of the Apostasy for sharing the idea of 3 1/2 Time-Out Tuesday. Maybe next week I’ll be a little better at this.

The Face of True Capitalism


“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks]  . . .  will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” — Thomas Jefferson — The Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill, (1809)

Capitalism is the economic model of choice here in the United States and is considered antithetical to other models such as fascism or socialism. However, there is a lot of confusion regarding what constitutes “capitalism,” exactly. And does it even work? Most people think of economic models on a spectrum with socialism on one end and capitalism way on the other side. However, what people don’t usually consider is that maybe there’s more than one type of capitalism. The particular capitalist breed that dominates America is really corporate capitalism. Nothing is local anymore. If a product is tainted the subsequent recall is often nationwide, affecting hundreds of millions of people. This should come as no surprise when you realize that, for example, 5 massive corporations own 62% of the hog industry – and the same consolidation of capital is present across virtually every industry. Compare this to little over a half century ago when that same 62% would have been spread across thousands of local businesses. This trend has resulted in the consolidation of wealth and power to the point that 147 “super-entities,” mostly banks, control 40% of the world’s wealth. Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek argued that socialism and fascism were fundamentally the same in that both were grounded in central-planning – I would add corporatism to that list of centrally controlled systems. Central planning, whether by government or corporate decree, is diametrically opposed to Catholic social teaching as it treats man as mere capital to be controlled by a few ruling class elites thus denying such aspects of human nature like self-determination and, sadly at times, basic human dignity.

Corporatism is the end result of capitalism that allows for unjust practice. The capitalist alternative then is distributism which seeks to establish a “society of owners” and thereby decentralize wealth and power. This is not socialism which demands redistribution of wealth to everyone equally to create one solitary economic class (indeed, the term “distributism” is somewhat of a misnomer). Instead, according to distributist theorist Hillaire Belloc, the distributive state contains “an agglomeration of families of varying wealth, but by far the greater number of owners of the means of production.” This distribution does not extend to all property, but only to productive property, namely, the things needed for man to survive including land, tools, etc. Thus, each man can be alloted what he needs to make his own livelihood. This is less of an economic system to be enforced like socialism or corporatism and more of an individual and cultural aspiration.

It would be both wrong and ineffective for the government to attempt to instill a distributist society as it might a fascist or corporate one because unlike fascism or corporatism it is not a systems-oriented economic theory but an individual-focused theory, deeply grounded in the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Instead, the role of government should be to enable distributism through several different means. First, the government must remove the obstacles to a truly free market that it has created. This means no more bailouts, ending the treatment of corporations as people, and eliminating the bureaucracy which CEOs manipulate to regulate industry in such a way as to stifle emergent entrepreneurship. Secondly, our government must return to its original purpose of defending individual liberty in order to eliminate the unjust practices of “greed is good” corporatism. Our government must especially take a stand in defense of the individual’s right to property, including ending the property tax and prohibiting anti-production investments meant to stop competitors. These interventions will then grant a greater freedom of choice by individuals to control their own production in the form of wealth-producing property if they so choose – because ultimately distributism must be an individual choice and a cultural movement towards a different way of life. This isn’t just about economics, this is about affording a lifestyle that incorporates all aspects of human nature. Thomas Storck argued that “both socialism and capitalism are products of the European Enlightenment and are thus modernizing and anti-traditional forces. In contrast, distributism seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life”. The capitalism of faceless corporation is failing, so let us turn instead to the true capitalism of the family: distributism.

The Distributist Review


Check out the Distributist Review today! This website is a great resource for information on distributist capitalism. This is “capitalism” without all that “greed is good” bull that is so troublesome for us Catholics. While in essence distributism is a capitalistic system it is in reality abundantly different than the “crony capitalism” or corporatism which plagues our country today. Instead of the capitalism of a sick republic which revolves around faceless corporations in bed with corrupted and overreaching government this is about a capitalism that enables the self-expression of each man’s unique talents and interests and allows each of us to exert our independence in a world where we depend on everyone for everything. More to follow on distributism, but until then check out the Distributist Review and enjoy.