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From time to time, readers of The Distributist Review comment on how many articles we have specifically relating to Catholic teaching. There seems to be a view that the case for Distributism should be made on the basis of the economic argument alone, without specific reference to any specific religious view, lest we drive away non-Catholics. This raises a legitimate question for everyone considering Distributism. Is Distributism Catholic? The answer to the question is both yes and no. In the interest of full disclosure, I am Catholic, as are the majority of the writers for The Distributist Review. This will come as no surprise to those who have read more than a few of our articles, but some of our articles have been written by non-Catholics. However, I am digressing from the point which is to address why the answer to the question, “Is Distributism Catholic?” is both yes and no.

The Reason Distributism is not Specifically Catholic

Distributism is based on philosophical ideas. Contrary to the understanding of many, philosophy is not the same as theology or religion. It is a separate field even if the topics overlap. Many of the principles put forth by Distributism can be also found in the teachings of other religions and cultures from around the world. Many of the philosophical teachings that are the basis of Distributism pre-date Christianity. Aristotle advocated many of the same positions as Distributists. Therefore, these philosophical views cannot be said to be specifically Catholic. Additionally, just as there isn’t one strict form of government compatible with Catholicism, there is not just one economic system that is compatible with Catholicism. It is possible to have a capitalist system that is compatible with Catholicism, but many elements currently accepted as part of Capitalism throughout the world—like usury—would have to be removed from it to do so.

The Reason Distributism is Catholic

Distributism as a distinct economic view came into being as a result of papal teaching. Popes addressing issues of economic and social justice wrote encyclicals which inspired groups of Catholics to form a movement that attempted to present those issues, and solutions to them, to the wider public. This movement took the name of Distributism or Distributivism (although its founders voiced their desire for a better name). Although this movement included non-Catholics from the beginning, the positions advocated by Distributists are consistent with Catholic teachings on economic and social justice. In other words, Distributism consists of philosophical positions on economic and social structures that are compatible with the Catholic Faith. One can no more separate Distributism from Catholic teaching than one can separate the original United States Constitution from the writings of John Locke.

What Does This Mean for Non-Catholics Considering Distributism?

The real question for non-Catholics considering Distributism is whether they can accept the philosophical positions that are the basis of Distributism. One need not be a Catholic to be a Distributist any more than one needs to be Catholic to believe those who can should help those in need. The point is that acceptance of Distributism by non-Catholics is not based on the fact it is consistent with Catholicism; it is based on the fact that Distributism is a philosophically sound and practical economic and social view. Catholics who accept Distributism do so on both grounds.

You might be asking why, if this is the case, there are so many specifically Catholic articles on The Distributist Review. Our society promotes the error that faith should be confined within the walls of the home and place of worship, that it has no bearing on economics and politics and should essentially be hidden from public life. Catholicism teaches, as do other faiths, that faith applies to all aspects of life. Capitalism as practiced in the world today readily accepts many practices that are not compatible with the Catholic Faith. Therefore, we remind our fellow Catholics of this point. We present the clear and consistent teaching of the Church and ask our fellow Catholics to reconcile their own views to that teaching. Even if they continue to reject certain aspects of Distributism as an economic system, they cannot continue to accept or ignore the aspects of Capitalism that are incompatible with the Faith. We encourage non-Catholics to do the same in regard to their faiths and have welcomed such comments posted by our readers.

We believe it would be wrong, it would be dishonest, to hide the fact that Distributism has ties to Catholic teaching. What would be the purpose of doing so, to hide the fact from non-Catholics? No. We will be open about these ties, and we expect any non-Catholics that accept Distributist ideas as compatible with their faiths to be open about the fact. It is not something that needs to be hidden.

Consider the following questions.
Do you agree that it is fundamentally unjust for our government to borrow in order to save huge banks and corporations that are “too big to fail” and do almost nothing to help the average small business owner and worker who were hit much harder by the current economic crisis?

Would you agree that the way this crisis has been handled demonstrates that our government, regardless of the political party, responds to the cries of Big Business instead of to the cries of the population-at-large? Is not the reason it does so because of the imbalanced amount of control that these few businesses can exert on the economy?

Do you agree that a society where the majority of capital (the means of production) is owned by a large segment of the population, is better than one where it is owned, and therefore controlled, by a small segment of the population (who own the businesses that are “too big to fail”)?

Do you believe that families are more economically free and independent if they own (either independently or in corporation) the capital used to provide for their needs?

Do you agree that government should be greatly restricted in its ability to interfere with family life, with things like the raising and education of children?

Do you agree that, even though monopolies can greatly reduce the cost of production, the means of doing so are often at the expense of the society (lower wages, out-sourced production, loss of local jobs, etc.), while maintaining their own high profits?

In your opinion, do you think it is wrong for companies to layoff hard working people just to hire cheap labor overseas, in countries using child and forced labor under intolerable conditions?

Do you agree that a large number of small producers results in a more stable economy; that it is better that entire industries should not be brought to their knees by the bad management of a few huge corporations; and that we should not be dependent on large distant sources for basic necessities like food?

Would you say that, as large companies grow into oligopolies, they are less likely to feel the pressure of competition that would otherwise maintain just wages and prices?

Do you find it ironic that the supporters of “free market” monopolistic Capitalism are always talking about the benefits of competition when the goal of large companies is to eliminate competition?

Do you agree that it is fundamentally wrong for banks to put small businesses at a disadvantage by only making loans to them at high rates of interest while offering very low interest to big business; even when there is practically no difference in risk?

One does not need to be a Catholic to agree with these, or the many other points made by the Distributist movement.

Welcome!

 

About the author: David W. Cooney

 

David W. Cooney serves on the Editorial Board of The Distributist Review. His articles have appeared in Gilbert Magazine and he has also contributed to The Hound of Distributism, a book of various authors. Originally from Southern California, he now lives with his wife and two children in Western Washington state where he works as a network administrator.

 

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75 Comments

  1. Pingback: Is Distributism for Catholics Only? « Caelum Et Terra

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  3. You’re so very close to separation of philosophical elemental thought from non-philosophical religious teachings.

    Even if Distributism has roots in Catholic teaching, it also can not escape it’s roots in so many other philosophical thoughts. Dare I say that it can’t help but be dialectically bred from the flock of thought before it.

    I believe that for Distributism, a lot of Catholic articles on the Review stem from an attempt to bring more Catholic teaching into Distributism than it really requires or that is even relevant. Morals are important, but that’s no good if the writer treats morals as religious dogma and not as philosophical thinking.

    I’ve started calling myself an ‘Atheist-Distributionist’ to make sure people don’t think I support ‘pro-life’ dogma. I love the moral economics, hate the moral dogma.

  4. Great article, thanks! I think that the economic and social view of Distributism is quite natural and traditional and many non-Catholic persons would agree about the mistakes of Capitalism and that reforms should be made to restore a more tradicional and ethical economics. But my concern is about Protestantism, because authors like H. Belloc and George O´Brien thought that the current Capitalism is a consecuence of the social and moral breakdown of the Refomation. Should the ethics and religion influence the economics? As far as more and more protestants are realizing of the failure of our calvinist economic model and replying “yes, they should”, Distributism could be also a tool for the communion of all Christians. Lets hope, like Belloc did, that the current separation is shorter than the arianist one. Sorry for my english.

  5. I consider myself an Augustinian catholic (lower case intentional — I am Reformed). Don’t censor yourself on my account — I appreciate your candor and respect your unapologetic advocacy of Roman Catholicism. I came over to Distributism because of my disillusionment with the Austrian School — I want an economics that is moral and guided by the truths of the Christian faith. Because all truth is God’s truth we should not be surprised that the stratagems of the Capitalists and the Socialists have failed — and they have failed for reasons deeper than the faithless can perceive. They have failed because of their idolatries. We need Christians to speak from the stand point of the Great Tradition — not sweep it under the rug, embarrassed by it. That’s the sort of behavior that got us into this mess.

  6. Richard Aleman

    Thank you for your support Christopher! We thought it was about time we talked a little bit about the mission and standpoint of the DR. David is the right man for the job and I appreciate his article because it articulates our position. Chesterton never hid his faith from his weekly readers and neither should we. As you’ve said so beautifully, we need not sweep Christ under the rug and neither should we tuck the Jesuit away in the pantry. We believe that if we put Christ at the center of our work, an authentic social change will take place and doors will open. A long road ahead awaits us, but we couldn’t ask for a better companion.

  7. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    I appreciate your candor in your position, however, you need to realize that religion has a lot to do with the question of ethics and morality for the religious person. Therefore, when we wish to drive certain points home with our religious readers, it can help to use another moral issue, like abortion, with which we know they are likely to agree. You also need to realize that our pro-life pro-life position is based on the same philosophically based principles of justice that form our economic views, and not just on religious dogma. However, this is not the forum for an actual debate on that issue.

  8. David, I appreciate your open reply.

    The problem I have with the capitalists is that they value misery so highly and happiness so lowly and cause suffering with remarkable ease. The problem I have with Christians is that they tend to value life over happiness, causing or enduring suffering in this world in order ensure a good position in the next. It worries me that my philosophical moral underpinnings are based on something quite a bit different from the Churches and that it is so difficult to communicate why this might be the case.

    I take your point that you need to communicate with Catholic readers, but that perhaps shows DR to be designed for Catholic Distributionists and less for any other reader. Is this perhaps what you were trying to explain in your article?

  9. Despite the claims of atheistic dogmatists, believers don’t base everything off some sort of ‘God says so..’ thinking. There is a massive patrimony of rational/ philosophical Christian thought about morals, society and the universe at large.

    If that’s not what you think, then my apologies, but this notion has been floating around recently, and the point is still valid in general.

    Atheist dogma is still dogma. They aren’t magically protected from all irrationality. If anything, they tend to find an ideology to replace what they rejected. Dawkins and Hitchens are two of the most laughably narrow-minded ‘freethinkers’ on the face of the (meaningless?) earth. They are the Phelps and Chick of atheism.

  10. Emily Lunsford

    Thank you, David, for this fantastic, clear-cut article. I will be using it as a reference in the future! This is what I love about Distributism- it is so universal, but also very much in line with and founded upon truths of the Catholic Faith.

  11. Classical Liberalism is only a heresy from a Catholic perspective, since it’s simply the second stage of development of Protestantism – thus it’s impossible for Protestants and non-Christians to endorse Catholic Social Teaching by definition.

    They can have somewhat of a Social Philosophy based on some level of natural law or divine law, but without the Fullness of Truth, their theories will be inconsistent and have no staying power.

    This is why, ultimately, Protestants and non-Catholics won’t be comfortable at the Distributist table, even if they are welcome. The reason is because they can see Catholic Social Teaching is founded upon the reality that mankind is fallen and thus requires the aid of the Church in being successful in public and private. That long list of ‘bad things’ you listed that most reasonable folks would agree with requires an affirmation of Original Sin and Church, else the non-Catholic will be founding their Social Teaching on Pelagianism and/or Protestantism, both doomed to fail.

  12. To add to my above comment: The fundamental ‘error’ running rampant today is Classical Liberalism, which has it’s foundational principle being the Separation of One True Catholic Church and State (i.e. Public Life).

    Many folks mistakenly think this is a “Left” versus “Right” issue; it’s not. The Left vs Right dichotomy is man-made and anti-Catholic by definition. The “Right” is just as much Classically Liberal as the Left.

  13. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    Glass houses. Before you start throwing stones at Christians, you should take a careful look at the only examples of attempts to establish atheistic societies known to history. Let’s see, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro. All included a strong policy of separation of Church and state. Also, Christians do not value life over happiness, but we do value life over mere convenience which is what all justifications for abortion ultimately are. As I said previously, this is not the venue for a debate on abortion. For someone who laments that abortion is brought up in discussions of economics, you are the only one who introduced the topic here. Maybe you should abide by your own assertion.

    The DR is not “designed for Catholic distributists.” The point of the article is that while certain elements of Distributism can be found in religious and philosophical views outside of Catholic Social Teaching, Distributism as a whole consists only of those social and economic views that are consistent with that teaching. The philosophical heritage of Distributism runs from Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, all of whose views included many other things that were defended with the science of philosophy.

  14. David W. Cooney

    Nick,
    While the issue of (religious) authority may indeed lead to some discomfort between Protestants and Catholics at the table of Distributism, I do not see it as something that will prevent cooperation. The issue is one of justice understood in both a philosophical and religious sense. Just as we find more Protestants standing side by side with Catholics on other issues, we may one day see them standing with us on economics. Consider the comment of C R Wiley above. I agree with George O’Brien that the “Austrian school” has its roots in Protestantism, but Protestantism is not a single monolithic entity with a hierarchical authority infallibly defining its beliefs.

    I have spoken with Protestants who find great discomfort with the injustices of Capitalism, but who don’t see any other option because the only other system they can imagine is Socialism. I am sure that there are many Protestants who will reject Distributism outright because of its ties to Catholicism, but for every one of those there are others who will give serious consideration to the idea of economic justice in the light of Scripture and come to accept many Distributist ideas even if they do not accept all of Distributism. Even that would be a tremendous improvement over where we are heading today. The same can also be said of people of other faiths (as is illustrated in some of the examples of “Small is Beautiful”).

  15. I totally agree with Nick about Protestantism. It´s not only that the “Austrian School” has its roots in it, it´s that the modern banking, industrialization(as we know it, with concentration of capital), secularization, materialism, moral relativism,… they all have their roots in the Reformation, as the Holy Church and its rules were put out of the economic and social life.

  16. David W. Cooney

    Alfonso,
    Many Protestants with whom I have spoken do no like secularization, materialism, or moral relativism on religious grounds. You also remember that, in many ways, the Reformation itself was a rejection of those same things which had become rampant in the life of the Church. I am not defending what I believe to be the doctrinal mistakes of the Reformers, but we must be honest here. Remember what Jesus said to those who wished to stone Mary Magdalene. The Reformation happened for a reason. The Catholic Church actually had no disagreement with many of Luther’s 95 thesis. The Reformation happened because the bishops of the Church failed to condemn errors which ultimately led to heresies (including the rejection of Tradition and the Magesterium). I believe the same thing is happening in many ways in the Church today and that the results will likely be the same.

    However, it is important, when dealing with Protestants, to remember that – as George O’Brien pointed out – you cannot paint them all with the same brush. This is true even within particular denominations of Protestantism. Take a look at the recent events with the Anglicans. As I said before, for every group of Protestants who embrace the current economic life, there are others who are finding fault with it on religious grounds and who seek to find a clear path to bringing the economic life into conformity with the teachings of Christ. As I pointed out in the article, Distributism is the agreement between philosophy and the Catholic Faith in the arena of economics and social life. Non-Catholics can and have accepted the philosophical foundation of Distributism without full acceptance of the Magesterium. What happens after that is up to God.

    One point of my article is that Catholics need to recognize that the economic principles are philosophical in nature and therefore can be discovered and accepted without accepting the Magesterium. The other point is that Distributism itself conforms to the Magesterium and that we should not attempt to hide that fact from non-Catholics even at the cost of losing adherents. Otherwise, Distributism runs the risk of morphing into something else.

  17. @David, Your tone has shifted somewhat, are you still the same person who posted before? I’ll take your Stalin, he was a nasty piece of atheist work, but you can keep Hitler, who was a big Christian (forming the Christian Socialists party and invading Poland and going on and on about how he’s doing gods work). Attempting to edit history to make all the vilest villains into atheists doesn’t lend credit to what I thought was a fairly rationale original article.

    Much as I’m sure you don’t like it when I tar Catholics with the same brush, the same shouldn’t be done for any other group. It’s unfair.

    It’s too simple and not a good debate. Please post as Dr. Jeckle because Mr. Hyde is making you look uncouth.

  18. Hello David,

    I agree with your thesis that Protestants can stand beside Catholics on many of these subjects, but it will be inconsistent on their part since there is no ‘neutral’ ground here. Either the Protestant will put themselves on a path that must ultimately lead to Rome, or they will be on a path that will ultimately lead to the very Liberal mess they seek to escape.

    This is precisely where the “Conservative” versus “Traditionalist” dichotomy comes from. The “Conservative” believes in both Biblical and natural law (both broadly understood), but philosophically they have no “Church” or Magisterium to penetrate the public sphere. As such, they can believe Christian principles in their heart, but they cannot consistently carry that over into the public sphere. This is why politicians can say (with an element of truth) “I’m personally opposed to X, but I won’t impose my personal opposition to X onto the public.”

    As for the Reformation happening for a reason, I realize you had limited room to speak, but ultimately even considering the abuses (which were present but not as rampant as some suggest) the heresies that sprung from Luther were root level – wholly novel foundations of Christianity – and thus couldn’t be corrected by true “reform” of abuses.

    I’m not sure what you mean by saying Catholic principles are “philosophical in nature” unless you are saying they are grounded on Natural Law. There is no ‘neutral philosophy’ that can lead to all truth, and such is the Enlightenment mistake. As I read many of Pope Leo’s XIII encyclicals, I came to see just how crucial a proper understanding of Natural Law is for these subjects, and NL is something all men can know and accept without Catholicism. The ‘catch’ is that due to sin, even coming to a *consistent* application and knowledge of NL is hard without the Church. And, worse yet, without the Church any Protestant or Secular appeals to Natural Law will very frequently be met with internal opposition as to just what is and what is not Natural Law (e.g. Protestants frequently reject or contradict NL). This is why basing a government on Natural Law alone is also bound to fail (even if it is truly a step up from purely atheistic foundations) since it puts too much confidence in men that they will do the right thing, glossing over our fallen nature and need of a Church.

  19. @Nick – Going slightly off topic, but. Philosophy is most happy when concerning itself with natural ‘internally consistent’ mechanical logic. Your perspective is that there is a requirement to have an authority from which all non-philosophical laws could be generated.

    Of course the only laws which fall outside of philosophy are those that are illogical or inconsistent. When you strive for an authority like the Catholic church you are relieving yourself of the need to practice true philosophy to work out from those that have gone before what is and is not.

    This leads to the authority becoming stagnant and the continue additive anarchy of secular philosophy progressing. Even if there is a danger that secular philosophy might be careless at times, it has the opportunity to correct itself because it doesn’t assume it’s correct and complete.

  20. David W. Cooney

    Nick,
    Hitler was not a Christian or a socialist. His group only joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party) party – not “Christian Socialist” – because it was convenient (they already accepted the “racial purity” ideas he also advocated); as soon as they were able, they eliminated (killed off) the actual socialists and afterward the party was socialist only in name and more corporatist in nature. The only real point where Hitler agreed with the socialists was the need to get the people to turn to and depend on the state rather than their churches for social needs. He violently suppressed all religious leaders who spoke up against the party line. In the end, he killed of nearly as many Christians as he did Jews (though not for the same genocidal reason).

  21. David W. Cooney

    Nick,
    Please re-read my comment carefully. I did not say that “Catholic principles” were philosophical in nature. I said that Catholics needed to realize that the economic principles are philosophical in nature. The point of distributism is that is only accepts those philosophically based economic principles that are also consistent with the Catholic Faith.

    I disagree that acceptance of Distributism ultimately must lead one to Catholicism. No matter how happy that would make me, there is much more to Catholicism than the philosophical principles that are Distributism. One need not believe in the Immaculate Conception to believe that a person deserves a just wage, nor does one need to accept the infallibility of the Pope to believe that widely distributed property is better than it being concentrated among a few extremely wealthy owners or the state. It may be the case that, having seen that Catholicism is correct on these issues, a non-Catholic may be more open to considering theological matters, but I think the Buddhists would object to your claim that the principles they accept which are compatible to Distributism must ultimately lead them to the Catholic Church.

    Your point on the lack of unifying authority is a good one, but I don’t think your conclusion naturally follows. It may be that the lack of a unifying authority which cannot change but only preserve what it has received may make some Protestants consider Catholicism, that was the case with the traditional Anglicans, but I don’t believe that Distributism by itself is sufficient to lead Protestants to that conclusion, nor do I believe that individual Protestants or groups of them could not hold to Distributism while maintaining their current doctrinal positions.

  22. @David – I think you meant to point that reply to me instead of Nick.

    Hitler certainly wasn’t atheist, not even agnostic or apatheist. Even if he wasn’t an attentive Catholic, it’s a mark against the church that it can not tell the difference between the god fearing and a god wielding maniac.

    That you attempted to use his bad name to do harm to atheists is disreputable and slightly silly considering that he’s well known enough for his religious views to be well documented.

    I do agree with you that principles can be extracted (like anything) from the Churches documented morality, but I think that has more to do with the general human advancement of moral philosophy and now it’s more likely that this advancement continues outside of the church and not inside of it.

  23. Martin,

    The secular approach, while it can work for a time, has a tendency to go down a slippery slope into relativism and often rack with the problem of never ending debates. How long does an issue need to be debated before it’s truly settled (if there is such a thing as truly setting a subject), especially on issues like abortion where time is of the utmost importance. History shows few men virtuous enough to even derive and stand by a consistent philosophical framework built on Natural Law.

    ——————
    ——————

    David,

    I think you mistook me for Martin in your second to last post.

    There are two issues that I distinguished in my last comment, the issue of Classical Liberalism (in which “Conservatives” teach the state cannot govern morality, at least not consistently) and the issue of accepting Natural Law alone.

    When I said it would put one on the Path to Rome, I was speaking specifically of “Conservative” minded Protestants who come to see the folly of ‘privatizing’ their religious beliefs and thus escape the Classical Liberal framework trap but then must endorse an ‘official Church’.

    I admit one can technically somehow arrive at at least some basic moral precepts and thus have a reasonable Distributist framework in place, all without accepting the Church, but I’d bet this is found more within Pagan nations that already abide by some moral code tied to their religion. The only time such endeavors are successful in Protestantism is when sects divide to the point they can ‘authoritatively’ endorse such principles (e.g. Amish type communities), but that’s only temporary until someone (yet again) disagrees. It saddens me to realize a good hearted Protestant who has a robust view of Natural Law can be neutralized by a fellow Protestant in his denomination objecting “that’s just your opinion.”

    One good example I already gave was that within the more ‘intellectual’ Protestant circles (i.e. Calvinism, particularly with Total Depravity in mind), there is strong disagreement on whether there is a Natural Law at all, as well as what exactly falls into that category. (If Capitalism is derived from Calvinistic “health and wealth as a sign of one’s election” principles, then obviously the game is already lost for a significant percentage.) An ‘aware’ and truth-seeking Protestant will readily see the problem and danger in a theological tradition that cannot answer that question definitively, and only Rome can satisfy this. This is precisely why so many Protestants go to Rome after abandoning the never ending parallel run-around with Sola Scriptura. Without a firm foundation on Natural Law, a robust Distributism is impossible. My opinion is that Catholic Social Teaching is the surest safeguard and clearest light for this and thus is a natural direction one would head once they see the light.

  24. May I point out that Distributism or something very close, in the abstract, is no less Anglican, at least the more traditional and ‘catholic’ versions of Anglicanism, and Orthodox as it is Roman Catholic. Personally I do not think that these Christians need have ever heard of Chesterton or Belloc or read the Papal Encyclicals to come to the conclusion that something like distributism is the natural extension of their religio-philosophical principles and beliefs.

    I’m far from an expert on Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism, but I believe all of these more or less lean towards a distributive state if their principles are truly adhered to.

    Nick, about your comments on Protestantism, distributism and the singular authority of the Papal See, there is just one problem; Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. These Churches reject the singular, definitive authority the Papacy claims, though they recognise its rightful place as first among equals. Yet these traditions are at least as traditional, anti-modern, pure and balanced as Roman Catholicism. Indeed these traditions did not experience Vatican II. I have a great love and admiration for the Western, Roman form of Christianity, but I’ve always been a bit baffled by the idea that a traditionally minded Christian must find end up in the Roman Catholic Church. John Henry Newman once said(off the top of my head) ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant’. I agree, Protestantism and particularly Calvinism is a limited tradition, but Rome is not the only deeply historical and traditional and ‘catholic’ Christian tradition left.

  25. David, thanks so much for your kind reply. Of course anybody could agree with what Luther nailed in the church´s door, they really justify a true reformation (that was the called Counter-Reformation), but not the final breakdown of Christiany into a thousand factions (some of them quite bizarre) that was the wrongly called Reformation. I also think that most Protestants, as Christians, are not happy with moral relativism, but that doesn´t mean it doesn´t has its roots in the Reformation. I agree with you that many of them and others, like Buddhists(also inspiring Schumacher), could accept the Distributism as they could have similar or compatible philosophical basis. But i still think that calvinism and other factions or religions are philosophically quite far from that point. Anyhow I agree with most of your article and would like to congrat you once more cause it´s a very good one and able to start quite interesting debates about the nature and borders of Distributism.

  26. David W. Cooney

    Nick, Sorry, the comment above relating Hitler’s views was obviously supposed to be addressed to Martin.

  27. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    Membership in the Catholic Church is through baptism which typically occurs during infancy. Just because Hitler was baptized as a baby and initially raised as a Catholic in his childhood doesn’t make the Church responsible for “failing to recognize” what he would become in the future. He completely rejected Christianity as an adult and this fact is very well documented. In fact, rejection of Christianity was an absolute necessity for his Aryan views because they were based on polygenism which was being widely taught by evolutionary scientists. Polygenism, not Christianity, was the justification of Hitler’s attempts to “purify” Germany from the Jewish race. Polygenism is completely incompatible with all forms of Christianity because it posits multiple (and completely separate) evolutionary paths for the different “races” of humanity while all branches of Christianity believe in the common ancestry of all humanity.

    Hitler’s rejection of Christianity is clear and historically documented. His opposition to Jews was founded on the scientific theory of man’s origins which was popular in his day – they were on racial genetic grounds, not on religious grounds. Like the socialists, he believed religion to be a crutch, useful for manipulating the masses. I am willing to withdraw the assertion that Hitler was an atheist if you can produce any credible documentary evidence of his believing in any god.

  28. David W. Cooney

    Nick,
    The main point I am trying to make in regard to your comments is that Distributism (or, as Wessexman states, something very close to it) could be established within a primarily Protestant society. The reason we have monopolistic Capitalism today is that it accepted by the majority of society. If the prevailing view of society changed, the economic policy would change with it. I don’t think there is a Catholic author here at The Distributist Review who would not be joyful if the information we posted led them “across the Tiber.” The point of my article is that it isn’t strictly necessary to cross the Tiber to accept Distributism; they could remain standing of the far bank.

  29. @Nick – The secular approach is the same religious approach without invented central authority. The problem with all moral philosophy is that it tends to get hammered by practical reality i.e. convenience and ad-hock social adjustment. In all real moral philosophy (secular or religiously founded) doesn’t tend to relativism any more than it tends towards liberalism, the principle is that it must be logical and consistent with itself and then only consistent with nature if it wants to be a natural law too. In short, I don’t agree with the assertion that it is secularism that produced the current confusion.

    @David – This isn’t the best reference, but it is fairly easy to understand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_views We’ve picked a damned subject hard to argue, but according to those sources we can be sure he wasn’t an atheist because he was a monotheist. Maybe God isn’t his god, but having a god gets your Secular membership revoked.

    I find it no coincidence that the Eugenics movement was founded on an abuse of a secular writing (Darwin’s) as many horrible historical evens have also been justified wrongly using the Bible. Humans, you just can’t trust them with a book of ideas before they’re either burning it or burning each other because of it.

  30. Martin,

    I don’t believe Catholic moral philosophy is driven by “convenience and ad-hock social adjustment,” since there are set ‘standards’ that can never be violated. (This answer can be hard for non-Catholics to accept, since the idea of unchanging and uncompromising Truth is not generally a part of their thought tradition.) Rather, the convenience and ad-hoc factors apply, by definition, to philosophies that have an underlying religious tradition that can shift (principally Atheism, then Sola Scriptura types). The biggest difficulty with the secular ‘religious’ approach is that it generally is founded upon Atheism, yet with Atheism there being no God as lawgiver, there is also no rational basis for moral law, hence the reason why so many secularists dispense with morality all together. Even Protestantism has a greater chance at practical Natural Law consensus than the atheist crowd does.
    And as Leo XIII said quite logically:

    If therefore no hope of a happy eternity remains when the body dies, what reason is there for men to undertake toil and suffering here in subjecting the appetites to right reason? The highest good of man will then lie in enjoying life’s pleasures and life’s luxuries. And since there is no one who is drawn to virtue by the impulse of his own nature, every man will naturally lay hands on all he can that he may live happily on the spoils of others. (Exeunte, 8)”

    In short, if this life is all the chance we have at happiness, then naturally people will want to take advantage of that, and thus step on whomever they need to so as not to miss the chance.

  31. @Nick – I think you are mistaken to simply brush aside secular moral philosophy as unfounded. There are inherent universal truths which atheists hold, but they are based on self-proving logic, not on an iron age authority making it up as they went along.

    Atheists even have faith, we tend not to have to recalculate Pi each time we wish to use it because we have faith in it’s unchanging truth. God didn’t hand us Pi on a stone tablet, we actually figured it out and now know it to be an ultimate truth.

    Just as with mathematics, there is faith in solid and rationale morals which aren’t founded on imaginary gods being the law givers. In essence it’s time we grew up and started treating our self governance seriously.

    Abraham religions shy away from being responsible for understanding the truth behind morals, it is a rejection of moral philosophy which hinders our ability to improve the moral condition of society.

  32. In the studies of metaphysics, theology and philosophy there is nothing truly original , so celebration of such a quality in the context of them is misguided. This is not the place to have an in depth discussion, but the rapid change, the constant replacement of perspectives of secular or modern philosophy must, at least, be weighed against the accusations you fling at religious philosophy Martin, to get a balanced view of the issues(not that I accept your accusations.).

  33. Wessexman – We could talk all day about dialectic philosophy and how it relates to progress and the creation of originality. But you’re right, this isn’t the place for it.

  34. Martin,

    Could you give me some examples “inherent universal [*moral*] truths which atheists hold, but they are based on self-proving logic”?

    I’d be interested in how atheists come to a consensus on universal moral truths like theft, adultery, murder, lying, etc.
    And also, what of the evolutionary notion of “survival of the fittest,” especially if humans are seen as merely more evolved animals? (I’m not trying to start an evolution debate here)

  35. David, I appreciate your article and would enthusiastically include myself in the camp of non-Catholic Distributist sympathizers. My question is in regards to power and enforcement in the distributist model. This political/economic model talks a lot about the need to inject morality and justice into economics. But it also takes a very cautious view toward power and centralized control, thus promoting the idea of subsidiarity. So how we square these two seemingly diametrically opposed goals? Infusing economics with justice while at the same time decentralizing power? Don’t the economic goals require an incredible amount of meddling in the markets and centralized imposition of power? And here’s how my question relates to the issue in the article. Since central government should not presumably be the one to impose a moral direction on the markets, as that would give them too much power, might that power to impose justice be given rather to the Catholic Church? That’s what makes me as a non-Catholics a bit leery. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  36. Animals are interesting actually. We, like other animals have a set of inherent social morals built in biologically which is a fascinating research subject.

    Anyway, the most basic moral conduit is the golden rule. That your actions should reflect how you should want to be treated. We don’t need to trust that is given to us from god, which we must struggle to achieve with faith alone. We can work out system-wide dynamics (even mathematically) which show breakdown of relationships, trust and productive cooperation when this simple rule isn’t socially institutionalised in all members. It’s just not good for us to behave in an anti-social manner.

    Now you might think, well that’s not really a moral code because consensus could shift about what is expected behaviour. If everyone is known as thief, then people will take precautions and not think badly of you if you steal because it’s what you would have done.

    But, we know that stealing does harm to those we steal from, it’s the denial of property or use of property which is harmful (which is why most people can’t be convinced copying movies is theft, simply because morally or legally it’s not). So the very core of our moral code is our actions causing harm in other people, from there you can work out a lot of other moral dilemmas (which don’t all work out to simple yes/no answers either).

  37. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    Even a casual reading of the article you linked reveals pretty strong evidence that Hitler’s support of religion was because he thought it politically expedient. He feared the influence of the churches over the people and chose not to publicly suppress them. Stalin did pretty much the same thing in regard to the Russian Orthodox church.

    Even the idea that he may have planned to declare himself messiah doesn’t indicate that he actually believed himself to be god, or even a god. The testimony of Martin Bormann (Hitler’s Secret Conversations) and Albert Speer (Inside the Third Reich) – people who not only personally knew Hitler, but were close friends of his – reveal that unlike the communists, Hitler chose to use the churches and religious imagery to placate the masses, but he believed that religion and National Socialism could not live together.

    However, I suggest that we both agree that there is enough contradictory evidence that neither position can be proven beyond doubt. Therefore, if you will concede that we can’t reliably say that Hitler was religious – or even a deist, I will concede that we can’t reliably say that he was an atheist. So one of the aforementioned attempts at implementing an atheistic society is removed.

    However, your subsequent statements regarding philosophy show where you diverge greatly from the philosophical foundation of Distributism. Animals do not have any inherent social morals. Morals require free will which is absent in animals. You say the Abrahamic religions shy away from discovering the truth behind morals. That is absurd. That was a large driving factor behind the philosophical movement of the Middle Ages. In fact, Martin, the science of philosophy which is the foundation of Distributism not only applied clear logic to establish the truths of the moral law in respect to secular society, but also to prove the existence of God.

  38. David W. Cooney

    Jon,
    I do not deny the difficulties that exist. This is why I made it clear that Distributism – as a distinct economic system – is and always will be compatible with the Catholic Church’s teachings on social justice. As Wessexman pointed out, other religions could establish something very close to it. The point is that all churches agree that the judgment of what is moral comes from outside of people and their societies, that people and societies must conform to a morality that is outside of its control and beyond its judgment.

    In a society with multiple religions, members of the different religions would be members of the same guilds and would have the same level of influence over the establishment of standards and enforcement. Members of the community would have the same level of influence and recourse against abuses regardless of religion. I believe that the fact that the economic policies are philosophically based and that they can be defended on the basis of the science of philosophy without recourse to religion would minimize the frictions. While the Catholic Church does not agree with the idea of the total separation of Church and State, the Church acknowledged back in the Middle Ages that they had their separate spheres of authority.

  39. >> Morals require free will which is absent in animals.

    Science says no. Two points, humans are animals, if all animals don’t have free will then we don’t; being animals too. Or secondly free will is an agent of the thinking level of the animal involved and perhaps it isn’t so black and white. Research suggests animals have free will in degrees, usually as an extension to their biological drives.

    Which is moot too since some morality is built into the biology of all social creatures, although whether it can be called morality at all if it’s hard wired is another question.

    Free will is a funny thing, “you are what you are and that is why” as the autonomy of the mind goes.

  40. Hi Martin,

    You say humans, like other animals, have social morals built in *biologically*. That’s not technically how Natural Law works, since as David says it only applies to humans. And on top of that, posing different “social morals” for different animals borders on relativism, particularly if one conceives that man is constantly evolving (meaning the social morals would evolve as well).

    I think some clarification is needed here too, for when you say “social morals,” that doesn’t necessarily translate into a universal moral code, and rather can simply mean what is morally acceptable to this or that society.

    I am truly fascinated that your moral foundation is the ‘golden rule’. The only two inquiries I would make is that how do you demonstrate this to be grounded on an unchangable foundation, and secondly, how do you address issues where mere agreement between two parties suffices? For example, if one party agrees to do something degrading/sinful/etc for a price, the other party might very well feel fine doing that for a price too, they just happen to be the one with the checkbook. Technically, they are both doing unto the other what they feel is acceptable.

  41. Hello,

    This is Caio, from Brazil. I’m a little bit in a hurry right now, but in order to avoid forgetting to post it: look into Shaykh Abdalqadir’s Murabittun movement and the “practice of the people of Madina”. It’s all there: gold-backed currency, guilds, local producers and markets, no usury, etc.

  42. Martin, Science says no such thing. Natural Science, at best, simply records the observable, external behaviour of animals. It can say little about their free will(the methodology and assumptions of natural science are mostly deterministic anyway.) or qualities of intelligence. It is irrelevant, except to the degree one can plausibly say that such and such an animal acts in such and such a way that appears to us that it displays some sort of free will or intelligence. It would take extensive, philosophical investigation to really judge these attributes in animals and Natural Scientists are usually blissfully unaware of the philosophical and metaphysical assumptions and foundations of their Science. So I wouldn’t say they have much to add that is not common sense. All your really saying is dogs or monkeys or apes appear to have some sort of free will and reason, no matter how small or fleeting. The true nature of such is not immediately apparent and certainly its relevance is not.

  43. @Nick – Because relativism depends on morals between any two parties being relative to the relationship between them and not relative to the society as a whole. Where modern immorality seems to stem is from the idea that morals can be grounded in individualism, somehow we are psychic to the moral expectation of the other and we should at great lengths attempt to defeat that expectation in order to gain personally. Which of course I reject utterly.

    Animals are tricky, discounting biological hard wiring (like infanticide): Social morals can only really exist for social animals, the complexity of their social relationships is probably related to their social moral complexity. We can only do research on behaviour observed and can’t really ask about motivations upon it like with can with humans, so it’s tricky. But a black and white statement that animals have no morals is too simplistic for what research is showing us.

  44. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    Science does not say that all animals must have free will if humans do. That is like saying all animals must have four limbs because humans do. Humans are animals, but we are rational animals while the other animals are brute animals. Your statement is philosophically unsound. Humans are rational sensitive automotive extended substances and the other animals are irrational sensitive automotive extended substances. Animals may have varying degrees of intelligence, but no animal other than humans have free will and science has never shown any evidence to the contrary. The ability to choose between this or that reaction of their biological drive, or even between their instinct for survival and their instinct to protect their young does not constitute free will. Man is the only animal that can choose to act completely contrary to his instinct.

  45. David W. Cooney

    But Martin, animals are not social animals. They are gregarious, but they do not form their own societies. What you are doing her is blurring the way different sciences often use similar terms. Philosophically, a social animal forms a society and gregarious animals may live together as their instinct directs. Every group of dogs has the same form of group structure. The same with bees, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, and any other animal you can name except humans. You may find differences between sub-species – for example the fox compared to other canines – but within that sub-species there is consistency. Humans are the only animals who choose the form of their group structure. We are the only animal that is capable of changing its group structure. A domesticated dog does not act more human because it lives with them, it merely acts according to its instincts in the company of another dominant animal that is also its provider and companion. If you take a kitten and a puppy and raise them together, the kitten will still grow up and act like a cat and the puppy will still grow up and act like a dog. They have no choice in the matter.

  46. @Wessexman – There is enough doubt to make us not be so certain as David was in his previous comment.

    @David – I think you might have misread my comment, I meant to explain that free will in animals is possible because we are animals and have free will. Discounting other animals without having understanding isn’t logical. You seem over certain about issues of instinct and free will almost as if you’ve decided what the world should be like.

  47. David W. Cooney

    Martin,
    Your assumption concerning my understanding shows that you make conclusions without sufficient evidence. My understanding because I’ve decided “what the world should be like,” it is because of those who have extensively studied the animals of the world and submitted the results to the philosophical sciences. Their conclusions match my own observations. No field of science has ever shown even a shred of evidence of free will in any animal other than humans. Therefore to argue otherwise is to go against the evidence of science. This question has been pondered for thousands of years, and the evidence revealed by the modern advances of science have only reinforced the conclusions of the ancient philosophers.

  48. David W. Cooney

    Correction. “My understanding because” should have been “My understanding isn’t because”

  49. @David – I disagree. The science isn’t as conclusive as you suggest. Perhaps our definitions of free will are mismatched.

  50. Although no one seems to have cared much about my brief “on-topic” post on the Murabittun above, I hope I’m not wasting my time or yours with the current one. The beginning probably won’t seem to have anything to do with what is being debated here, but hopefully you’ll see it is related eventually.
    I have been following this website for quite a long time now and I find its content of ultimate importance. What amazes me, by the way, is that it is probably one of the only websites in which the discussion in the comments is very often richer than the articles being debated.
    One of those discussions I’ve followed with great attention was that between proponents of the Austrian school vs.those of distributism. I think that was when the limitations I see in distributism came to the forefront most clearly: you – that is, “most distributists who write for this website who I’ve had the chance to read talking about that topic” – not only blame “Austrians” for the outcome of “capitalism” – understood here as the integration of big business and the state, which they despise as well – and “neoliberalism” – a Chicago- school-based version of free market, not an Austrian one – , depicting that outcome as something economically bad, mostly for Third World countries, which is absolutely not the case. In general, “neoliberalism” has benefited us in the poorer countries – such as Brazil, Chile, China, India, etc. – rather than otherwise if one is to take into consideration the improvement in the standard of living of our populations. If you go around here asking who people would rather work for, Walmart or a mom and pop store, a Fiat plant or on a farm, “11 out 10” will say they prefer the former to the latter ones.
    Things get even worse when distributists “play the history card”, saying that distributism was the norm for about 500 years during the Middle Ages, as if that period had been the wealthiest in Western history!!
    TO BE CONTINUED

  51. What distributists don’t seem to get – and others much less – is that the advantage of distributes, if any, does not lie in the quantitative, but in the qualitative side of economics and life at large: the benefits of the Medieval – or Islamic or any other – guild system were not those of being fairer or more equitative or making better products, but that of ritualizing [that is, giving higher, spiritual meaning and purpose to the acts involved in] crafting and therefore integrating the individual’s whole existence in the spiritual tradition he or she belonged to.
    This is where I relate this post to the article above:
    “…In a society with multiple religions, members of the different religions would be members of the same guilds and would have the same level of influence over the establishment of standards and enforcement. Members of the community would have the same level of influence and recourse against abuses regardless of religion.”
    That snippet shows total ignorance of what a guild was. It was an extension of the major religion in each of those societies, complementing in ritualized craftsmanship the religious rituals those people were engaged in at church, in the mosque, etc. For no other reason each guild had its own initiation, what shows that they weren’t only a mundane organization. A quick search on Google has brought some articles that illustrate what I mean:
    TO BE CONTINUED

  52. David W. Cooney

    Well, as interesting as this discussion as been, the purpose of the article was to point out that one need not be Catholic to agree with Distributism. As the current thread of debate in the comments has completely diverged from that discussion, I will need to bow out of the current direction the comments are taking in order to take time with other things.


    Martin, I have enjoyed the lively debate.


    Jon, I hope I was able to satisfactorily answer your question.


    Caio, I offer you my most sincere apologies that I completely missed your comment, which was actually on-topic while the rest of us had run off the rails. I had not heard of Shaykh Abdalqadir’s Murabittun movement, but I will try to look into it. Thank you very much.

    I am quite aware of the full nature of the guilds of the past. This would be an ideal, but how does this work in a society with multiple religions? Are we to say that you can only join a guild – which is what you must do to be in that guild’s profession – if you belong to the religion of that guild? Exactly how are we going to get people of other religions to freely support moving to such a system if that is the requirement?

    If our focus in some discussions about guilds has been on the qualitative or quantitative production, it has been because we were addressing claims that the presence of a guild would reduce or eliminate these aspects. However, we have included commentary of the necessity of guilds to be involved in social aspects without getting into too much detail on the matter. I guess that could be a topic for another article.

    My problem with your statements regarding the “third world countries” is that when these people are asked such questions, are they really comparing Distributism to Capitalism, or are they answering on the basis of having a job versus living under their previous systems which weren’t Distributist and which didn’t provide one. This is what I’ve read about the situations in India and China at least.

    The Middle Ages was certainly not the wealthiest period in history, but it was also not the depressed sink-hole it is often portrayed as being. Scientific and technological development progressed during that period and the benefits were available to all rather than legally locked into one corporation to use or bury at their whim according to what will give them the greatest level of profit.

  53. For some reason, I couldn’t post the third and last part of my comment above, which had links to illustrate – or demonstrate – my point. The system just wouldn’t accept that post, and when I tried again, it said I had already posted it. There must be a glitch in the commenting tool.

    1. The Murabitun movement: for a brief overview, I recommend the “Murabitun World Movement” on Wikipedia. Also, google “The return of the Guilds”, by Umar I. Vadillo (I’m not including the links here because I don’t know if that is what is preventing the system from accepting my posts).

    2. Religion and guilds: but the point is if the guild system does really work without the whole context of a “traditional society” (I am borrowing the concept of a “traditional society” from René Guénon and other traditionalists/perennialists)? For example, recently I listened to a class on the history of religions in which the lecturer said that, according to St. Teresa of Avila, most of the local villagers where she lived were in the “third dwelling/mansion” of faith (I’m not sure that is how you’d put it in English, but I think it is clear enough for you to identify what I am talking about). He uses that to explain that zealouness that led people to the Crusades, for instance. People did not want to lose that that made their lives so worth living. Muslims supposedly also had access to that level of faith mostly through their Sufi practices. Back then, religion was not a mere event you participate in on weekends. All aspects of life were sunken in it.

    Well, those were the people who participated in guilds, people who, when younger, would not choose a career according to employability expectations, but according to what they at least believed was their very nature, which was generally conceived as passing down from generation to generation. They believed that, in life, they were meant to fulfill – or actualize, in the Aristotelian sense of the word – the God-given potentialities there were born with. In hinduism, regardless of New Agers’ misunderstanding of those terms, that is what they mean by saying that your “karma” – what you are born with – determines your “dharma”. With a worldview and values like those, fordism and the likes of it didn’t stand a chance. It was not the mere product that was important, but how that product came into being. Spending your life performing tasks that a machine can now do – and very often more efficiently – was not really going to help you actualize your potentialities. It was not just being involved in all the phases of the production of an artifact, as is generally portrayed by distributists as the more humane nature of that system. It was the very series of movements that was ritualized – and therefore “Austrians” and other critics of destributism do really have a point when they blame the guild system for the lack of inovation, regardless of the quality of the crafts produced. Technological advancement was never valued before in any traditional society also because of that. They were not dumb. They just didn’t think it was worth “winning the world but losing their souls”.

    Because of that, I suspect the mere mimicking of the most superficial aspects of the guild system will fail to do the trick.

    3. Third World: my point was that capitalism – and I don’t even mean completely free market here – idoes not enrich only a few. Maybe the rich get even richer at a faster pace, but the whole society is benefitted when it comes to the general population’s purchasing power. That is a fact that can be easily verified, not ideology. I mentioned that because I’ve read statements to the contrary on this website, which, by the way, uncomfortably resembled those of leftists (with their poverty-making policies). Also, I suspect, as I think I have made clearer above, that the implementation of the guild system as it used to be – which we migh call its “holistic version” – may not bring much of an advantage when pitted against what we have nowadays when it comes to increasing purchasing power, standards of living, etc., as it was not really the point of the whole thing. On the other hand, if only the most superficial aspects are implemented – which seems to be what most, if not all distributists defend -, I fear it might not even have the expected outcome exactly because of its superficiality.

    My best,

    Caio

  54. Caio, the problem is this: is it all for the common good? Everything here stated if for the common good. What is the use of making higher the standard of living, if the common good isn’t served? And capitalism right now is in the sinkhole; so much debt to be paid off. The purchasing power of a dollar is really now nil. How can capitalism be helping us? The so-called left do have right criticisms, but the papal encyclicals have far better criticisms of the capitalist system, which underlying philosophy is ultimately greed by usurious profits.

  55. Dear Paul,

    1. The proper functioning of the guild system – or whatever other system – is for the common good.

    2. Capitalism is not the dollar. Americans tend to be too America-centered. The demise of the US means the end of exported inflation to other countries. For you it may mean the end of capitalism. For us in other countries it may be a new beginning.

    Hugs,

    Caio

  56. Capitalism anywhere else will mean the same thing. Great Britain (the main center of capitalism before the U.S.), Italy, etc., every European country is in the same sinkhole. Capitalism has never been anything else than greedy and usurious, profit at the expense of others.

  57. Capitalism also means, in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan,for instance, the best standard of living any civilization has ever reached. And that is not ideology – I myself prefer the “holistic” guild system -, but a fact, regardless of all the greed and usury and profit at the expense of others it also means.

  58. P.S.: The problem is that distributists, capitalists and libertarians all tend to think that a wealthy society is something good, and then want to show that each of their ideological preferences will bring more wealth if implemented. My point is that apparently capitalists (or facists, as some libertarians might prefer) and libertarians are more prone to provide that wealth, but at the expense of something else, which has always been considered more important in all traditional societies, and which may be the advantage the “holistic” guild system may offer. Trying to prove that capitalism or liberatarianism will bring misery goes against what meets the eye.

  59. What happened to the other comments?
    Viking

  60. @Caio Rossi – Er no, not much of our modern wealthy society is based around the abuse of the proletariat as you suggest. If you look there are two combined forced of the modern world: Science/Engineering and Free Energy from fossil fuels.

    You get better application of people labour via understanding of the natural and social world and recently an improved understanding of information theory. All science, not so much economics. In fact big capital has been quite the squeaky wheel on innovation and progress, constantly sucking energy and time away from research and production of useful arts and infrastructure into the production of useless things like large boats and villas.

    Celebrating the rich is an illness and it’s one based on the willingness to ignore morality and what we each do to each other through our actions. It’s also a willingness to ignore distributed capital investment and focus just on centralised capital.

  61. “Capitalism also means, in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan,for instance, the best standard of living any civilization has ever reached. And that is not ideology – I myself prefer the “holistic” guild system -, but a fact, regardless of all the greed and usury and profit at the expense of others it also means.”

    What you say doesn’t disprove Distributism won’t be prosperous and having a “high standard of living” when it is implemented. Catholic Distributists insist on a moral economic system, as promoted by the Popes not one based on greed and usurious profit at the expense of others, and other Distributists agree, even when they don’t agree as to the source. It’s never been given a chance in national politics, only Capitalism or Socialism.

    In any case, just because it’s prosperous, doesn’t mean [liberal] Capitalism isn’t condemned. In fact, it is harshly condemned by the Church. “Having a high standard of living” is only one part of economics. The economy must be subject to Christian morality. And as of right now, everywhere governments are in such debt that the so-called “high standard of living” won’t go on for much longer.

  62. As I can’t really manage to post links here, I’m giving you some online references on initiation, religion and the guilds without the links:

    1. Google “Organizational, institutional, and societal evolution: medieval craft guilds and the genesis of formal organizations”, by Alfred Kieser, and read especially from “Symbols, myths and rituals” on.

    2. Google “Trade guilds: Initiation through work”, by Andre Nataf. Excellent opening paragraphs.

    3. Go to studiaantiqua.byu.edu and search for “Egyptian Craft Guild initiations” in the spring 2007 issue of the Stvudia Antiqva journal.

    4. Google “Islamic Craft Guild Initiation” and you’ll find a very thorough post by Ibn al-Batul on an islamic forum. It is excerpted from “Economic Institutions” by Yusuf Ibish.It stresses the relation between the religion of Islam, Sufism and the guilds.

  63. Martin Owens wrote: “… If you look there are two combined forced of the modern world: Science/Engineering and Free Energy from fossil fuels…”
    Or better, technology, which cover engineering and the extraction of energy from fossil fuels (but unfortunately not Tesla’s free energy… ). But technology cannot find resources and practical applications by itself. Someone has to do that. Now, socialist countries also had and have access to technology but the outcome could never be compared to that of capitalist countries in terms of standard of living. Therefore, technology by itself does not explain anything. In order for it to be developed and to benefit people in general, entrepreneurship and a market free enough to allow the most proper allocation of resources possible are necessary (besides the rule of law, the enforcement of mutually-agreed contracts, etc.). That is what made wealthy industrialized Western countries wealthy industrialized countries.TO BE CONTINUED

  64. “… In fact big capital has been quite the squeaky wheel on innovation and progress, constantly sucking energy and time away from research and production of useful arts and infrastructure into the production of useless things like large boats and villas.”
    I don’t have either, but I don’t find them useless, as the very existence of a market for them demonstrates that at least some people who can afford them find them useful for something. Anyway, even if I admit that boats and villas are not really the most essential items for people’s lives, you just won’t convince me that computer hardware and software companies, the automobile industry, food industry and all other areas explored by big capital are useless. Compare the number of automobiles the industry manufactures every year all around the world to the number of large boats for the ticvh and it will be obvious that boats and villas may be useless, but their relevance to the world’s economy is meaningless, rendering them completely misleading examples if one really wants to understand things as they really are by assigning to each aspect its due dimension.TO BE CONTINUED

  65. “Celebrating the rich is an illness…”
    You are probably American, so you were born enjoying such a level of consumption that you probably don’t notice that what you there consider to be the average middle-class standard of living and therefore “healthy” – not an illness – is upper-middle class or more for most of the rest of the world, and “supernaturally” rich vis-à-vis the average Medieval standard of living and vis-à-vis all the civilizations in the history of the world, at any time and anywhere, before the 20th century. Thus, celebrating the middle class in industrialized countries likewise has to be an illness if we take the average standard of living enjoyed by all the world’s civilizations – their royal courts included –, since the Sumerians and Babylonians to the beginning of last century and most of the populations in the Third World countries up to today, as a statistically reasonable “norm”.

    END

  66. You’ve shown indeed quite big difficulties in trying to implement Distributism everywhere. But it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried, even with certain religions being hostile toward others.

  67. @Caio – Not American, not even middle class. It’s the decadence of the west that hurts the statical average, it doesn’t take much investment to build up infrastructure and move various parts of the world forward. But for that we don’t need centralised capital.

    That a market exists for something, doesn’t mean it should be produced. I’m sure large amount of cocaine have quite the market, and even if some people find it useful I wouldn’t go starting a business making it.

  68. All capitalists used statistics to prove Capitalism is working. But there is another aspect, the growing number of poor, and the gap between the rich and the poor grows ever wider, in ALL capitalist countries. And the debt problem will not go away, but will get worse, and when it does, the “Great Depression” will be nothing. It matters not a whit if all the increase in standard of living, technology, etc., if the distribution of wealth and private property is unjustly distributed.

  69. Martin, the parts of the world that lack infrastructure happen to be those where capitalism never really developed – especially African countries.

    And it doesn’t make sense to compare boats and villas to cocaine.
    —-
    Paul, there is no such thing as a growing number of poor. It is exactly the opposite. Statistics show that poverty has dropped dramatically all around the world, except in Africa, where national-socialist governments took over after WW II.

    You are oversimplifying the issue. The world has become richer and richer after the Middle Ages and the end of the guild system, regardless of the many crises capitalism has had eversince. Don’t mistake accidents for what is essential.

    You may have a growing number of poor in the US now, but that has to do with the crisis of financial capitalism with its central bank and fiat money, etc., and it doesn’t mean the situation is the same all around the globe. That is a very specific situation, which does not mean that capitalism itself – and I don’t even mean its libertarian version – is doomed.

  70. Prove it. Show that more people are getting their own homes and getting out of the poverty line. Pope Leo XIII showed clearly that individualism begets a growing number of propertyless wage-earners and pauperism.

    Ireland proves you wrong, so does the UK and other European countries, that are heavily in debt to the IMF and other international banks.

  71. And in any case, [liberal] capitalism is still wrong, regardless of the prosperity engendered by it.

  72. Caio – Most countries in Africa weren’t socialist after WW2, dictatorships and corrupt civil service regimes does not equal socialist.

    For their effect on the poor, villas and boats are as cocaine in many ways economically… a waste of time and a burden to society. Do you think the protection of property is free? do you think it’s a simply scale between protecting the €2 in your pocket and protecting the billions of dollars in a bank?

  73. People in capitalist countries have been getting richer and since the 19th century. It is an undeniable fact, and anyone who is willing to discuss economics should know that.
    As for the poverty line, it is an absolutely meaningless concept: someone below the poverty line in a rich country might be considered way above it in a poor one. If you have only a Ferrari in a country where, on average, people have 4, you might be considered below the poverty line, although you go to work in a Ferrari. That is a problem only if you consider that wealth should be more evenly distributed, regardless of how good the standard of living of the poorest is. But why should it be evenly distributed if even in countries like Brazil, where I am from, the poor are not starving. In fact, they’re overweight (and have cell phones, the family car, etc, etc, etc.)? The same is happening in most of Latin America, in China, India, etc. What should matter is not the poverty line, but the standard of living the poor can afford.
    From the 50’s to the 70’s Brazil grew at China-like speed, then, due to terrible policies, we got into “stagflation” for about 15 years or so – monthly inflation once topped 80%! Leftist revolutionaries took advantage of that chaotic situation to criticize the whole system and make their proposals more appealing, which is what you are doing now with distributism. But you just can’t take a snapshot of the current situation in the US, Japan and European countries and disregard the improvements in standard of living their populations have enjoyed and may still enjoy in the future.
    As for liberal capitalism being morally wrong, I don’t put that into question. I just don’t know how you can manage to convince people who, differently from what was common in the Middle Ages, don’t have a “traditional mindset” –as I tried to describe above – , that an economic system is better not because it makes the poorer wealthier, but because it fits your everyday life into the higher purpose God has set you.
    By the way, the author has admitted here in the comments that the guild system as proposed by distributists is not exactly the same Europe had in the Middle Ages. Therefore, distributists can’t even be sure that it will work based on previous experience. Being aware of that, I should add, they should be much more careful – and honest – when they rule out libertarians’ claims that free market economics has proved to work better on the basis that capitalism is not really free market. Neither is distributists’ guild system the one that existed in Europe for 500 years and is used by them as an evidence of successful implementation of the system.
    Distributists should get over anti-capitalist pointless clichés and double standards if they really want to be taken seriously, and in the meantime solve those inconsistencies I have pointed out in my comments.

  74. At least Catholic Distributists (like Belloc) admit that people MUST WANT to own productive property before the changes can be made permanent. They also admit with the Popes that economic changes mean nothing if it isn’t inspired with the Catholic social spirit, the spirit of justice and charity.

  75. @Caio – Nope. The problem with believing you is that you make too many assumptions. Like ‘everyone being richer’. The west has more access to resources than it should, given it’s production power. But apart from modern technology, you’ve done nothing but fall-over the enlightenment which benefited technical science much more than it did economic science.

    You put blind faith into your economic model, without rational.