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(Over the last 30 years, the 1% have created a global economic system—neoliberalism—that attacks our human rights and destroys our environment. Neoliberalism is worldwide—it is the reason you no longer have a job, it is the reason you cannot afford healthcare, education, food, your mortgage.

Neoliberalism is your future stolen.

Neoliberalism is everywhere, gutting labor standards, living wages, social contracts, and environmental protections. It is “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” It is a system that ravages the global south and creates global financial crisis—crisis in Spain, in Greece, in the United States. It is a system built on greed and thrives on destablizing shocks.

It allows the 1% to enrich themselves by impoverishing humanity.

This has to stop!

We must usher in an era of democratic and economic justice.

We must change, we must evolve.)

With this, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) launched a national “Occupy Uprising.” While the impressive formulation more or less describes a Distributist critique of the current economic system, what exactly is Occupy Wall Street? It is a spontaneous grass roots movement, which is on the one hand its strength and on the other its weakness. Its origin as a spontaneous grass roots movement is clear from the crowds it draws: Democrats and Republicans, working class people, veterans, and retirees; everyone but the top 1% the conservative talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh defends, but then again, Rush has always been an establishment mouthpiece who simply has the gift of “entertaining.”

It is no surprise, however, that the wealthy—who have no concept of what it is like to work—shockingly have nothing good to say about OWS. “If you’re not rich, blame yourselves,” was the response from Herman Cain, former Federal Reserve tycoon and 2012 presidential hopeful. Indeed, this response is a clear example of what some do not understand about the spirit and motivations behind OWS. The protestors are not mad because they are not rich, but because they can’t subsist. They stand against giving away their hard-earned money to the likes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ben Bernanke, and the financial firms on Wall Street.

Protestors have also shown an amazing and resilient adaptability. They have randomly, yet efficiently, managed to set up a cafe with free Wi-Fi, manage trash and clean up their New York City park headquarters with environmentally safe cleaning products to address the city’s concerns. To someone like myself who has witnessed out of control riots in the United States and Europe, or has watched the Greek riots and the London riots streaming on the Internet, this is quite impressive. What we are witnessing is common and hardworking people demanding not wealth, but subsistence, and the pleas of OWS protestors have taken Occupy protests nationwide. On 15 October every major city had occupy movements moving in, waking up the masses. OWS is also hitting countries as far away as Thailand. In a word, this is a powerful movement.

On the other hand, while OWS has organizers, it is a radically diverse movement that does not have concrete goals. This creates a problem. Without an organized and internal vision, the protests cannot effectively produce any coherent effect. As with the Tea Party, it will be simply co-opted by the establishment, the corporations and the banks. Case in point: Ben and Jerry’s, which is actually owned by a Dutch company, have “endorsed” OWS. Why are corporations beginning to endorse OWS? For the very same motivations that the OWS exists to protest: they can make some money. This is only the beginning. The media is also specifically ignoring protestors with anti-bank messages and instead come up to Michael Moore-type protestors and only airing messages that are more in line with our current President’s agenda.

Without plans for managing the OWS protest and what demands to sign onto, big business and big government will step in and choose the agenda for the protestors. It’s a classic trick going back to Caesar dressing like a commoner during the Saturnalia, or Lafeyette putting the tri-color French Revolution symbol on the King’s hat at Versailles to calm down the mob. It’s an old trick and it has worked in this country for the populist movement and may very well work again.

What ought OWS to do? It needs to adopt a Distributist platform of local accountable government, local business, local infrastructure, local banks, and justice. The Distributist plan is the only one that cuts across liberal and conservative lines; it is the only plan that defends our sovereignty, encourages jobs of our own, and subsistence. Some people will be rich in a Distributist economy, but Distributism doesn’t aim on being rich. It aims on private, productive property. If OWS took on its platform demands for more access to productive property, more access to subsistence, more access to living wages and investment in America, rather than market fundamentalism and the gambling of Wall Street and the big banks, of traders who “dream of recessions” so they can make money, then there would be a coherent message that is neither Left nor Right, nor in this anomalous concept of the “center,” but rather just.

 

About the author: Ryan Grant

 

Ryan Grant is a native of eastern Connecticut. He received his Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and also studied at Holy Apostles Seminary. He currently teaches Latin in Post Falls, ID where he resides with his wife and three children.

 

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69 Comments

  1. I think the most potent and neglected part of the needed transformation are the executives of small businesses. They should form the core of the transformation, just as they did in Taiwan under MacArthur.

    They have been the target of massive PR by the mega-corps. Business publications broadcast constantly that intrusive government is passing anti-business regulations over the objections of the mega-corporations.

    Result? The owners of car dealerships and lumber yards actually believe that Goldman Sachs shares common interests with them.

    However, the data and plain common sense shows that a mega-corporation is far more different from these local businesses than Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is from an average American. It’s easy to show that most anti-small-business regulations originated from bigger businesses using their influence over government to limit competition.

    How could that word get out? Who could tell them, that they would hear?

  2. This is a good article, thanks for it. The last paragraph is the best, and you could easily expand that into a whole post on its own. Your general warning about not letting OWS getting co-opted is really important too. People might do that because they will accept help from the political “above,” even if it is poisoned help. What they need is help from a strong set of moral values instead. If OWS aims too low – at politics not ethics – or even worse forgets what it is aiming for, then it will be lost. And that is precisely the problem, because its aims are still too generic in the first place. Distributism is precisely the message that needs to get in there to give OWS a message that aims high enough, above our corrupt political system and towards the higher things (and exactly what those higher things are is a framing question distributists should address too, i.e. is a secular distributism possible?).

    On that note, I’ve had searches on my blog for “secular distributism” which tells me that some people out there wish distributism were not just Catholic! I’m not sure what to do about it other than the posts I’ve already done arguing that distributism is economics not metaphysics, but perhaps the distributist movement needs to figure out how to broaden its appeal. The flyer campaign created some interest, I think. Now we need to be able to retain it.

  3. I think the most potent and neglected part of the needed transformation are the executives of small businesses. They should form the core of the transformation, just as they did in Taiwan under MacArthur.

    Exactly, the wealthy are not per se the enemy, they have to be guided by justice. This can be effected willingly by converting them to a concept of Distributive justice, or involuntarily by a government program which is not based on the expropriation of wealth (another injustice) but on economic policies which foster the growth of small business and discourage mega companies.

    Another element to consider is the upper middle class. Working people who make salaries between 30k and 50k hear of someone making 200k in a business and think that’s rich. It is not. They are resources too which can be utilized in creating an economy based on justice.

  4. The last paragraph is the best, and you could easily expand that into a whole post on its own.

    It could be a whole book of its own! Yet sometimes brevity is the better part of valor :D

    Your general warning about not letting OWS getting co-opted is really important too. People might do that because they will accept help from the political “above,” even if it is poisoned help.

    This is a general problem in history. Those with power either create controlled opposition, or they try and control the opposition. This is why the French Rothschilds aggressively threw money at Napoleon when he came back from Elba, while the British branch of the same family bankrolled Wellington, so that no matter who won they would come out on top.

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  6. “Another element to consider is the upper middle class. Working people who make salaries between 30k and 50k hear of someone making 200k in a business and think that’s rich. It is not. They are resources too which can be utilized in creating an economy based on justice.”

    So, in the case of small business owners, and again in the example you give, there’s a tendency to misunderstand who constitutes the ruling elite. We tend to think membership is far broader than is actually the case.

  7. Are they really identifying the enemy as Neoliberalism? That would make them more Catholic than the Pope!

  8. Hi Janet. I think in this context neoliberalism refers specifically to the contemporary economic system. In American politics, I usually think of Republican “conservatives” as neoliberal in their economics, while “liberal” Democrats tend to be more socialist or into heavily regulated capitalism.

    Hi Ryan, pleased to speak with you. Yes, brevity is a talent! But if you feel the call, do say more. And I do have a question for you, just your opinion (but perhaps another book-length treatise). Do you think distributism should come about by government intervention or by grassroots efforts of regular people just cooperating in their own system, sub-culture-like (like the Amish, for example). I’m thinking you are going to say it requires both, but I am mulling over the centralization/decentralization question and can’t seem to figure out how to economically decentralize if the central authorities really don’t want you to do so.

  9. This is false:

    “It is no surprise, however, that the wealthy—who have no concept of what it is like to work …”

    Many wealthy people no what the concept of work is. That’s how they got wealthy.

    Envy, I would remind the author, is a capital sin.

    On another note, many of the OWS protesters are crackpot leftists who support abortion.

    The idea that this is an uprising of justly enraged peasants is not quite right.

    Opposing the two-headed monster of big government and big business does not require siding with this anti-Christian, anti-American crowd, any more than opposing the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan requires siding with Michael-Moore leftists.

    The enemy of your enemy may not be your friend.

    Remember that.

  10. Sorry for the misspelling:

    It should read: “Many wealthy people know what the concept of work is.”

  11. @Brian: thanks very much for your kind reply! I was asking in hopes that someone on this thread has talked in any length to any ‘leadership’ of this movement and could supply some pertinent details regarding what associations they might have with the term ‘liberal,’ and then of course what the addition of ‘neo’ adds into the mix. For them, not for those who already know some of the terms and turf of this battle. I passed out the leaflets last week here in Chicago and will again, and I personally think about the ideology I might encounter and prepare some responses that I could hope were more sharply targeted than a shot in the dark. In this country, we are almost blind to the import of the term. My brother forwarded me a political cartoon of a leather-wearing biker spouting all kinds of Freedom rhetoric, Freedom from This and Freedom from That, and Bill termed him a conservative, but I said on the contrary, he is liberal. As are the Republicans. The Tea Party is liberal. Both are more liberal than the Democratic party. The average American Joe has things quite backward, and I think we have to address this problem head-on, to put Joe and my brother too on the path toward Leo XIII and The Syllabus, toward the Church’s use of the term, because only in the Church can we understand the real depth of the the perversity and evil of liberalism. Neo or otherwise.

  12. Do you think distributism should come about by government intervention or by grassroots efforts of regular people just cooperating in their own system, sub-culture-like (like the Amish, for example). I’m thinking you are going to say it requires both, but I am mulling over the centralization/decentralization question and can’t seem to figure out how to economically decentralize if the central authorities really don’t want you to do so.

    When the Church formed Distributism in the middle ages by a slow organic process, it was a both/and development. I think it can be done today with both. That said, however, I have a difficult time seeing that taking place, which is why I argued in my piece a few weeks ago on the banks and debt that we just go ahead and create a distributist economy without the government. It can most certainly be done and should be done. The trick is convincing your local community to do so. One vehicle that I think would be effective if your local community, whether city or sub-urb, gave property tax breaks on all businesses earning say, $300k or less a year. Or, with businesses that support the local economy in other than a service fashion, i.e. a production job hiring local people and providing goods used locally, again tax breaks. You don’t need state and federal government to do that. This can be done simply by speaking in your local community, or lobbying your local town and city councils.

  13. So, in the case of small business owners, and again in the example you give, there’s a tendency to misunderstand who constitutes the ruling elite. We tend to think membership is far broader than is actually the case.

    I would say unless someone is in a position to effect a lot of things, he is not part of the ruling elite or serving their interests. That has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, its just the KISS principle: If there is a new world order, the only way it could work is if a small number of people have the ability to effect the government in a big way through specific micro-managed zones.

    Now with us, we tend to see the rich as all elite, when really a distinction has to be made between someone who is simply upper middle class, and a CEO with a 50 million dollar retirement package via your retirement funds. We tend to see them as the same, when really they are not.

  14. Many wealthy people no what the concept of work is. That’s how they got wealthy.

    Envy, I would remind the author, is a capital sin.

    This is not a question of envy, I don’t want their money or their miserable lives. I want access to productive property, which they are in business to deny me, so that I can own my livelihood. Do you honestly think Herman Cain, pushing paper and policies in the Federal Reserve system which ruin our livelihoods, does anything other than sign documents and play golf? Do you think Rush Limbaugh, who lies to you with his microphone and does nothing but make fun of politicians (which any idiot could do) could run a small business? These guys have never gotten out of school with the garbage public education our kids are forced to receive, or work hard at owning a business producing things, offer good wages, and try to make ends meet in an economy with more and more dwindling opportunities. They don’t get it either. What’s Herman Cain’s message? If you ain’t rich blame yoselves” Well, who ever said OWS or any protestor for that matter wants to be rich?
    Lastly, I would challenge you to go to an OWS and talk to the people there. There are indeed pro-abort leftists, there are also libertarians and people who identify more with the right. Yet there are pro-abort libertarians at the tea party too. A spontaneous movement like OWS or the Tea Party cannot be painted with a broad brush for holding this or that position, there are tons of different people with different views. That brings me back to why I wrote this, they need to have certain views that everyone can sign onto to be effective, or else it will become like the tea-party: a mouthpiece for the ruling oligarchy with no solutions and only band-aids for a failing system.

  15. Cain and Limbaugh are straw men. I don’t support Cain or Limbaugh and did not bring them up.

    You claimed the wealthy have no concept of what it is to work. That is false. Many wealthy persons have a very strong concept of work. They treat their employees well and donate to worthy charities. They attained wealth by hard work.

    Either back up your statement, which reeks of envy, or admit you are wrong.

    Distributism, which I support, will win no friends with ad hominem arguments that are obviously false.

  16. “Now with us, we tend to see the rich as all elite, when really a distinction has to be made between someone who is simply upper middle class, and a CEO with a 50 million dollar retirement package via your retirement funds. We tend to see them as the same, when really they are not.”

    Yes, yes, yes! And the same with all those “tiny” businesses that are the victims of the mega-corporations that actually have sufficient power to interfere with the free market.

    If you look at http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html (Table 3), there are some observations that can be made — I think! (I’ve never had an economics course, outside of a careful reading of “Toward a Truly Free Market”)

    For instance: The largest 3% of corporations take home 2/3 of the sales.

    Half of all corporations have sales less than $ 0.5 million.

    The largest 6% of the corporations employ as many people as the bottom 94%.

    It appears that very large corporations are far more different from average corporations than very rich people are from average people.

  17. Cain and Limbaugh are straw men. I don’t support Cain or Limbaugh and did not bring them up.

    Then that’s where you’re off base on this, they are the ones I’m talking about. Not those with more money than I have (a category so broad it would be impossible to make any generalization) but those specific individuals who are part of the top 1% labeling any criticism of Wall Street, the banks or OWS “socialist”.

    You claimed the wealthy have no concept of what it is to work. That is false. Many wealthy persons have a very strong concept of work. They treat their employees well and donate to worthy charities. They attained wealth by hard work.

    If you look at the context in which it was said, at least it seems clear to me, that by giving examples of the “wealthy” of Cain, Limbaugh, Bloomberg, Bernanke, or in general CEOs, the Ted Turners and Bill and Melinda Gates’ of the world. There are different tiers of “wealthy”, and it seems sufficient to me that the examples I gave limit the generalization to the top 1%, abortion and population control funding, low wage paying, silver spoon elites. Generally business making 500k-1million a year pay out the best wages, where as the top companies and wealthiest individuals pay the lowest, to save that money for communist “charities”. This is why Chesterton said “a philanthropist is a misnomer, since they neither love, nor love men.” Yet as I said those are tiers, and given the examples the generalization is apt. Only an idiot would claim no wealthy man ever anywhere ever worked.
    Nevertheless the burden of proof is on you not me. You said that OWS is nothing more than pro-abort leftists. Can you prove that? My cousin who served two terms in Iraq and votes pro-life who went to OWS would seriously disagree with you.

  18. Christianus; Hard work is only one social virtue. As Chesterton said when a religious tradition breaks down its virtues as well as its vices are set loose and set up in an isolated, unbalanced way. The work ethic is obviously an example of this. But anyway the rich enjoy a lot of power and authority in our society, so they deserve to be held to an especial account; Christianity has always tried to intertwine power and authority with responsibility, virtue and trust. The rich, specifically those at the head of financial and industrial institutions, patently do not live up to the standard they should do as Ryan points out.

  19. Great post. Most of the conservative mockers of OWS say “Get a job.” But as I look on job boards for jobs, I’m noticing the explosion of “100% commission-only jobs.” What does distributism say about 100% commission-only jobs? Since a wage does not exist in this arrangement, one cannot technically be considered a wage-slave. The problem is you become nothing more than what you produce. Libertarians will support the destruction of a state-sponsored minimum wage. My belief is that the explosion of 100% commission only jobs shows the danger of our current system of capitalism where we are becoming nothing more than human units judged by nothing more than our output per unit per hour. Employers are more and more hiring people on 100% commission-only with a 90 day probationary period. In other words, come work for us for free, produce, or you’ll be fired. The education bubble (with over $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in America [a 600% increase over the last 5 years]), which will soon burst, also puts downward pressure on wages, i.e., if everybody is special (with degrees, advanced degrees, 3-4-5-6 letters on the business card) than nobody is special. Many who are Occupying Wall Street across the country are unemployed but can certainly get a 100% commission only job. What do you think about that?

  20. Employers are more and more hiring people on 100% commission-only with a 90 day probationary period. In other words, come work for us for free, produce, or you’ll be fired. The education bubble (with over $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in America [a 600% increase over the last 5 years]), which will soon burst, also puts downward pressure on wages, i.e., if everybody is special (with degrees, advanced degrees, 3-4-5-6 letters on the business card) than nobody is special.

    That’s a question, what would distributism say about that? I would be inclined (while not representing all distributists) that a commission only job a)needs to be qualified in terms of what kind of job it is, and b)sounds bad. The laborer is worth his wage. There are certain types of jobs where this makes sense. For example, apart from being an educator, a private tutor and other things I’m also getting paid for my first translation job. I get paid a commission for “x” number of pages I render from Latin to English. That’s a commission only job. Now, I would have to be doing a lot of it to live on it alone, or become so reputable I had people shelling out deep pockets for it. Nevertheless, that makes sense. If you say: you need to be out there all day and all night selling this product, we will not pay you, but you get x% of the money as a commission, this would seem to violate distributive justice, since you limit the laborer and pay him nothing for his time. Thus I would say it is simply a functionary of the gospel of big business: wages are the 1st controllable expense. This is why Wal-mart, one of the wealthiest companies in the world, has cut back its work force to a bear minimum, pays $8 an hour (at best) starting, hopes to move employees to public insurance, and pays its top people more money an hour than the people who produce their wealth make in a year.

  21. No doubt you’ve already seen this article from The Washington Post. I almost fell off my chair when I read it.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/age-old-distributism-gains-new-traction/2011/10/17/gIQANGBKsL_story.html

    That the very voice of the Washington DC establishment would even deign to mention Distributism – and mention Belloc! – is simply astounding.

  22. Stephen Peterson

    Brian Green said:
    “On that note, I’ve had searches on my blog for “secular distributism” which tells me that some people out there wish distributism were not just Catholic! I’m not sure what to do about it other than the posts I’ve already done arguing that distributism is economics not metaphysics, but perhaps the distributist movement needs to figure out how to broaden its appeal. The flyer campaign created some interest, I think. Now we need to be able to retain it.”

    I’d like to make the observation that distributism itself can never truely be “secular”. (I’m taking here the meaning of secuar as being something to which religion is irrelevant). Distributism is, ultimately, an economic system that is based upon a certain understanding of the human person. While it is not a metaphysical system, it does make foundational metaphysical assumptions.
    The reason that non-Christians can embrace distributism and even flourish under such an economy is because they are people, i.e the metaphysical reality of a person doesn’t vary according to their religion. As a Catholic I hold the underlaying metaphysical assumptions of distributism to be true, and because I believe they are true I have confidance in a distributist economy. If the underlaying metaphysical assumptions are altered in any way, it will flow through to the system itself and alter it. The system will no longer be distributism. For a non-Christian to jump on the distributist band wagon, therefore, they must either leave the philosophising up to others, or they must at least accept the image of the human person that is presented by Catholic doctrine.

    Can a distributist be pro-abortion? That seems to be key question. The answer lays in the answer to this question: Do those who support abortion and those who oppose it have a different understanding of the human person? If they do, and distributism is based on a particular understanding of the human person …

  23. @Stephen, Thanks for your clear answer. @those who chafe at the distinct Catholic core of distributism: If it makes it any easier to accept, that the distributist movement might require Catholic leadership in principles, the idea has a precedent in recent secular history. It was taken for granted by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, first in Mississippi and Alabama, then throughout the country, that the civil rights movement had to have black leadership. There were many white volunteers, many in leadership, but they saw the wisdom of the idea and took subordinate and supporting positions, so that the important job would get done successfully. It can be like that in this question too. If you like distributism, if you think that it has the potential to radically alter our present economy in favor of the average person, then it may be necessary for you to accept that its presuppositions (what Stephen called an understanding of the nature of the human person) are Catholic and that they necessarily limit what we have been used to having no restraints on, some sexual activities being one category, some economic activities being another. To achieve even one strong concrete manifestation of the superiority of distributism (one monopoly broken up and the ownership distributed, one health care cooperative staffed by the necessary volunteer labor of religious orders will take a significant number of people living in the state of grace, a cadre of these elite willing to die for the cause. (We do not have the organization yet, but help came recently from a surprising corner.) Or do you think this system will give way easily? Of course, the analogy to black history falls short, because the white volunteers could never become black (although not for lack of trying in some quarters) but anyone can become Catholic to whom God gives that grace. There can be no secular distributism. There can be no just society that does not recognize Christ as King. His great sacrifice–His very nature as God-Man–makes His Kingship necessary, or put another way, failure to recognize it as the first injustice, and at the same time makes a just society (one that is able to avoid the weakness of original sin) possible, through the guidance of the Church and the action of the sacraments on human nature. No way to avoid it. All other political roads end in darkness. I know, I have been down them all. (That’s why I have to beg for your prayers. But at least I learned my lesson.)

  24. In Taiwan, Baptist Douglas MacArthur set up a Distributist economy comprising mostly Buddhists and Confucians. Further, Chesterton did not finally convert to Catholicism until years after The Utopia of Usurers and What’s Wrong With The World were written.

    In addition, Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 25-26 seem quite clearly to presume widely-distributed ownership of the means of production, and lay out some redistribution schemes to maintain that distribution. So, can Distributism be limited to the Roman Catholic church? I don’t believe that holds water.

    That still leaves a host of unanswered questions, of course.

    Can there be secular Distributism based on ethics without regard to God’s sovereignty? Perhaps. Could any agency other than the Roman Catholic church have developed it? Maybe. Is there an essential connection between justice for the unborn, and justice in material dealings? Maybe.

    Could a Distributist economy be maintained without a strong core of belief in justice? No, I don’t believe so. Can a core belief in justice be found outside the Roman Catholic church? I certainly hope so.

  25. “Can a core belief in justice be found outside the Roman Catholic church? I certainly hope so.”

    Dear heart, I know you want and love justice, but think about it–how could there be any true belief in justice without believing in Christ? To believe in Christ is justice, not to believe in Christ is an injustice. Christ fulfilled the prophesies, He did the miracles in front of many witnesses, He was the Redeemer. His incarnation united the Godhead with mankind, the only way to fix our first ancestors’ sin. And then, to top it off, He died for us, too, in a terribly painful, ugly, abandoned, emptied way, and has asked in return only that we build a new society on earth united to Him, guided and shielded by His Bride the Church, a cadre of men and women in the state of grace, nourished by the sacraments. It doesn’t matter if a bunch of greedy men ten years ago or five hundred years ago or five hundred thousand light years ago sold Him out and broke His Church. It is only our job to restore it and the peaceful society that went with it, including its economics. To deny Christ at the center of a good world is the first, fatal injustice. All else follows that. Don’t fight with it, follow Him.

  26. @Ryan Grant — First off, I totally agree that we should move toward the distributist social/economic model. However, I think that the myriad articles suggesting “what OWS should do or become” are missing the point. OWS is purposely NOT defining itself — and (imho) that’s NOT a problem. Hint: Think of OWS simply as a virus that carries two simple messages. First: we can build our society in any form we choose. Second: We don’t need anyone’s permission to exercise our freedom. If those two messages are widely disseminated and take root in enough people’s minds, then OWS will be successful, regardless of the ultimate disposition of the physical occupation. OWS is not, and shouldn’t be, monolithic in ideology. There will be thousands of manifestations of freedom and we should welcome this, as it represents the elemental nature of the distribution of power.

  27. “There will be thousands of manifestations of freedom and we should welcome this, as it represents the elemental nature of the distribution of power.”

    Fascism is an expression of this wonderful, evidently inspired freedom. And communism. And the Pol Pot regime. And the Ku Klux Klan, for that matter. No, content matters. Besides that, mobs are easily manipulated, as the Republicrats are counting on. Besides that, there is a price tag, an IOU, for every single expression of class warfare. The literature of every nation is full of it, try investigating just one, like the price in China for the cultural revolution. In fact, China is a great example of the falsity of worshipping mob percolation and expecting it to come out with some kind of justice or truth without either study and prayer.

  28. @Janet Baker — if you think that salvation, justice, etc. lie only in your specific mode of worship, then you and those who agree should go for it — by all means, live your vision of freedom! If you wish to impose that vision on the rest of us, then you’re not talking about distributism, you’re just talking about good old-fashioned top-down theocracy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but distributism isn’t about trading one set of autocrats for another.

  29. @Pat, thanks for your kind (and clear) answer. Actually, distributism may well be about trading one set of ‘autocrats’ for another. I put that in quotes because I’m not sure exactly for certain what autocrat means, but I’m pretty sure you mean somebody, somebody kind of inaccessible to ordinary democracy (but not all the forms of democracy, such as those to be found in guilds, for example, even when there’s no voting) laying down a tough law. Well, distributism has lots of regulation, or rather the organizations and laws of the medieval societies were just about totally regulated–the so-called Reformation was mad to be reforming out of that, to what we have now, a society with far fewer regulations and most of those against the ordinary folks. (Our autocrats *fight* regulation that’s in favor of the majority of people!) Our “free society” with the guarantee of a “free market” is unregulated. In contrast, medieval societies regulated so much: advertising–it was forbidden–money lending, script, production, prices, education, and kept Sunday work-free–and one third of all the other days, too, something protestantism *really* hated! Also, Pat, may I say that even those days, and could be so again, when you say there was a ‘theocracy’–there’s several ways to define that, so allow me the single quotes–that didn’t mean that religious intolerance was the rule. To say that one religion is recognized as the standard, the one with which principles courts and schools and hospitals will agree in their own spheres, doesn’t mean that other religions can’t be tolerated and respected. They were–for example, newscasters will say today that in the past, Christian and Muslim societies lives in peace in the middle east, and that was because they had at last achieved peace between them in Europe as well, and there was respect and commerce between them. There was mutual tolerance and official declaration of a national religion. It’s the absence of a standard in society that makes for instability, and the idea that “all” religions are “equal” simply means they are all, psychologically and socially, equally bogus, and you end up with secularism–no religion. Because anything that matters can’t be equal. Some programming language is going to do the job better, and at the very least you can’t switch languages in the middle of a project. You see my point. Even in sexual matters a closer look will allow that Catholic societies were much more forgiving and flexible than protestant ones, until secularism forms rebelling against it. (In fact, it caused some scandal at times, and perhaps ought to have. But still.) I have surely labored the point, but hopefully you can see it’s so much more cruel to the world to pretend there’s no best way to accomplish a little peace and justice.

  30. Stephen Peterson

    @Ron
    I’m not holding that non-Christians can’t be distributists. I’m just putting forward the idea that economic systems are so designed because they take a particular metaphysical understanding of what the human person is. So, capitalism understands the human person as being primarily motivated by rational self-interest.
    Catholic doctrine presents a particular and unique understanding of the human person. I hold this understanding to be true. In holding it to be true, I am safe to say that this understanding of person applies to all persons, whether they are Christian or not. An atheist still has an immortal soul, even though he doesn’t believe it. A Hindu’s identity is rooted in the intrinsic unity of his soul and body, even though he doesn’t believe it.
    With this particular understanding of the human person, therefore, it follows that any persons, irrespective of religion (or irreligion), will be more likely to flourish in an economy that assumes this understanding of human person. For this reason, Buddhists and Confucians will flourish in a distributist economy even through they might have differing metaphysical views. The metaphysical reality of a person doesn’t change because they happen to understand that metaphysical reality differently.
    MacArthur, as a Baptist, would have had a far better understanding of the human person than a non-Christian. However, I’d argue that he probably learned more about the nature of the human person from his experiences as a hands-on battlefield commander (MacArthur often placed himself in the front lines) than would a Protestant without his hands-on experience. In other words, Catholic doctrine isn’t the *only* way that someone can come to this particular understanding of human person. By keen observation and an open mind, it is possible to closer to an understanding of person that agrees with Catholic doctrine. However, the people who have the capacity to do well are very few and far between. That is why, for example, when a non-Catholic learn something new about Catholic doctrine, it is not uncommon for them to experience a “ring of truth”, i.e. even though they are not Catholic, something about what they just heard resonates with them.
    In conclusion, a person doesn’t have to be Catholic to be a distributist, they just have to be human. Also, a person doesn’t necessarily have to be Catholic to be a leader in the distributist movement, but they do have to share significant points of agreement on the nature of the human person with what the Catholic Church about humanity. I would much rather follow an Orthodox or Protestant who agrees with Catholic Social Doctrine than a ‘liberal’ Catholic who just doesn’t get it.

  31. The question about distrubitism and Catholicism and Christianity is an interesting one, as is that over distributism and different kinds of government. I think some of the problem is that people are confusing the distributive state with the full Christan principles of ‘distributism’ as exemplified by Chesterton and Catholic Social Teaching. I myself am a high Church Anglican who has decided to slowly transition to Orthodoxy, I believe both these strains of traditional Christianity are as much in line with distributism as Roman Catholic, as presumably are the Church of the East and perhaps some strands of Lutheranism. The mainstream ‘reformed’ branches of Christianity, like Presbyterianism and Methodism, may be less perfectly receptible to distributism, but I believe they still point towards it. Non-Christians or Secularists(I thinking more or less of modern, secular ideologies; non-Christian traditional religious philosophies are perhaps a separate topic.) can certainly subscribe to many aspects which are more or less in line with the abstract idea of a distributive state. There is a more limited amount of groups and figures who go beyond this to some of the more explictly ethical and, what others here have called, metaphysical principles of traditional Christian and its social teaching. These latter principles are a high standard and it is the core of distrubitism, it is where our attachment to the distributive state comes from and proceeds it, not the other way around. This means we will not simply embrace all who are significantly close to advocating such a state, but rather our working with various groups and individuals would depend upon judgement of how that effects our larger distributist goal.

    When it comes to the question of the distributist vision of political authority and separation of Church and State I think Janet is more correct than Pat. It seems obvious that distributism, in the sense of Christan social teaching and not simply the distributive state, being based on the traditonal Christian view of man and society is as interested in politics, society and culture as much as in economics. The traditional Christian view of political authority and separation of Church and State was, to put it briefly, very different to the modern, liberal conception; it was defiantly monarchist and what Pat has called theocratic. It had good reasons for both of these positions, whether put in the language of the Patristic-Platonic tradition or that of the Schoolmen, in principle is not always in how they were practically implemented. This does not mean that we have to have a complete resurrection of such historical regimes or that the more untimely elements should be placed as immediate goals. However what is true is that we should distance ourselves from mistaken views of politics, particularly prevalent liberal and modern ones favouring things like excessive securalisation or conflating the distributive state with the view of Lord Acton, and classical liberalism as a whole, that all power corrupts and therefore, in good liberal fashion, all power needs to be checked and balanced in a liberal democratic ways.

  32. Hi Stephen, Janet, Ron, Pat, and everybody talking about whether distributism can be secular. The problem, of course, comes with the meaning of secular. There can be layers of secularism. If you are talking nihilistic secular, then no, of course distributism cannot be secular. Eliminate the meaning of morality and economic ethics makes no sense. But if you are just talking separation of religious and political spheres, as was understood even medieval Europe and even the Bible (the two spheres had a common culture, but power was not monolithic), then a secular distributism still makes sense. And of course there is everything in between.

    Anyway, we are having too many earthquakes where I live (prayers appreciated!), so I think I need to write more later… I’ll address this again on my blog, in more detail. I’ll post a comment over here after I write something.

  33. Here’s the problem in the role of the Church and Distributism. Distributism springs from those very principles harkening back to Aristotle and St. Thomas, and predicated clearly by Pope Leo XIII. No one can become a distributist without some reference back to Catholicism.

    Yet this does not mean that you must convert to Catholicism in order to be a Distributist. Frankly you could be a Muslim and be a Distributist. Yet these do not mean that Catholic distributists must stop sounding like Catholics in order to promote distributism. I’m happy to welcome any non-Catholic distributist who wants to work for justice and charity in the economy, but I’m not going to stop being Catholic in order to make him feel more comfortable. We’re not an ecumenical body (don’t say anything about next Thursday, please!). We are respectful and happy to help anyone from a different religion who wants to work with us. So if someone wants to say “I agree with your principles, but I don’t care for all your Catholic stuff, I’m pro-choice, I’m lutheran/calvinist/jewish/muslim etc.” We would say fine, whatever. But if they said “can you stop being so Catholic”, we could justly retort “can you stop being so non-Catholic?”. Its just a fact of life, you can’t leave your religious views behind. That doesn’t mean we are going to have a religion hour, but we will make reference back to it when explaining distributism.

  34. Brian I’m having trouble understanding what you mean by secular. By your definition it seems that all that isn’t secular would be the actual replacement of rulers by clergy or vice versa. In medieval Europe, West as well as East, separation of Church and State was slight, though neither in the Papal dominated West(outside the Papal states and a few Prince-Bishoprics.) or the Imperial dominated East was the role of clergy and royalty completely combined in principle. However the religious and royal spheres were intimately connected, indeed they were envisaged as basically inseparable, though not to be completely confused. The King was needed to uphold the Church and God’s Law and it was the Church and Law which gave him his authority. I think we can all agree there should be religious freedom(just about absolute in private, though one can differ about whether complete public religious liberty should be allowed so you could have a mosque competing for the skyline with Salisbury Cathedral.) but whether we should think at all in terms similar to liberal, democratic ideas of the separation of Church and State is another matter entirely.

  35. Hi Wessexman. I’m just presenting two extremes of the use of the word secular, ranging from nihilism to just shy of theocracy. There are even “secular clergy” after all, just using the word to designate clergy “in the world.” I’m not trying to make any point other than that. I understand what you are saying historically, no problem.

    Ryan, you are right too. Distributism’s historical and philosophical core is Catholic, but of course others can still act/believe similarly even without being Catholic in name. Going back to Stephen, theology underlies an anthropology which underlies the economics, but others metaphysics can yield similar anthropologies and thus economics. One can get to a similar economic place, even without the same theology, just because the human is understood similarly. In other words, I suppose I’d say the argument is equally accessible through natural law (construed a certain way) as it is through revelation.

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  37. The Church and the state ought to be separated by job, but not by mission, which is to get everybody to heaven at the end, and to get everybody a decent living in the meanwhile. Of course the state builds roads and doesn’t write encyclicals or offer Holy Mass! I say ‘ought to be’ speaking from the teaching of the Church rather than from a cateloging of the various historical expressions of state.

    But hey gang! Let’s get busy building it instead of talking it to death!

    I went to a very interesting conference recently which cleared a few things up for me. I’ve not been politically active for a few years, it having finally dawned on me that all steps forward on the matter of justice only provided better cover for secularism, and no replacement government was appearing on the horizon. Yes, secularism can and will eat a guild right up, when it is done in the name of ‘religious freedom.’ In fact, secularism will soon be ‘pro-life’ and will re-criminalize abortion, because now profits will lie in that direction. All these new state laws are not coming only from the support of pro-life forces. (The state will not love women any better, however. I wish all the good people here would get a handle on just how dangerous secularism really is.) (Who’s your best friend, loving secularism? The Tea Party!) But at the conference, in covering the encyclical Quas Primas (ya gotta get it! It’s the one establishing the feast of Christ the King), the theologians present indicated that as long as an initiative was organized around that principle, that the final goal was the establishment of a religious state in which Christ was recognized as the center, you were good to go. Secularism can’t co-opt it, as it strikes at their center. We could get behind a cooperative, or a guild, or a legislative initiative, as long as it were underlined with the call for a Catholic religious state, or another and sweeter way to put it, in the name of the kingship of Christ. This has reopened some mental doors for me personally.

    So may I ask: if you could choose one project, what would it be? There is a whole new group of people who have been exhorted to shop for one and get busy, and they haven’t been covering the distributist interwebs, they have to catch up!

  38. So many excellent, thoughtful posts! Thank you all. I am reading and thinking, so please don’t take a lack of response as a lack of interest.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that only the ELCA can truly understand Distributism. So, then, all we’d need are a few million perfect followers of the ELCA to run things.

    Oops.

    I know and love a great many ELCA members, but I don’t know any perfect ones.

    When it comes to practice, it’s just going to be a bunch of flawed humans running things, as it always is. What standards they’re falling short of may not be that important.

    One of the real advantages of Distributism is that it seems to be more tolerant of our imperfect practice than corporation capitalism is.

  39. @Ron. We ARE a bunch of flawed human beings, that’s the point, but the Incarnation of Christ and the sacraments are the support God intended for us. Without those, our flaws seems to wreck everything. With those, we have a fighting chance. Dig it! “A cadre of men and women in the state of grace” is a whole different animal.

  40. @Janet Baker: “But hey gang! Let’s get busy building it instead of talking it to death!” Hear, hear. It’s a lot easier to make mid-course corrections if the vehicle is actually moving.

    Old aerospace saying: “In every aircraft project, there comes a point where you have to shoot the engineers and go fly the airplane.” Well, “ignore” might be better than “shoot,” but you get the idea.

  41. @Janet Baker — Regardless of whatever our doctrinal differences might or might not be, I applaud your enthusiasm for building a more just, gracious (in every sense) and bountiful world. I think distributism is ideal for all of us flawed people. The beautiful part about distributism is that, because power is widely and dispersed to local communities and individuals, the ability of one especially *flawed* person to cause cataclysmic harm is drastically decreased. Our current concentration of power means that the most sociopathic individuals (who naturally gravitate toward power), are the ones who can do the most damage. That has to stop.

  42. Thanks, Pat. A little love in the trenches, in heavy fire. Let’s be brave.

  43. Some of the comments have reminded me of a reputed interchange between a judge and a convict he was sentencing:-

    Judge: “You don’t know what good, honest work is.”

    Convict: “No, I don’t know what good / honest work is.”

    (Think about the stresses and pauses.)

    On the Catholicism/Distributism issue, for me the problem in accepting the Catholic side of Distributism doesn’t lie in the sound ethics spanning the two but in the incidental, historical accretions of the one that get into the other, whether through putting things in that muddy the issues or through leaving things out from tunnel vision, e.g. leaving certain aspects of states unexamined and acknowledging certain claims made by the establishment (like conceding the rightness of taxes in principle but begging the question of what, if anything, is rightness in taxation – and, if you go far enough down that road, you come to a presumption of the justness of war, and so on). In many ways that recapitulates many unperceived (by Catholics) issues of the Reformation – and, let us not forget, one of the unintended but often beneficial consequences of the Reformation was the Counter-Reformation. So, accepting Catholic moral and philosophical leadership in this area necessarily and inherently involves abdication of responsibility over matters where I have reason to believe that that leadership will fall short.

  44. I think that is because there is a confusion of the distributive state with the full traditional Christian Social Teaching. The two are, in the abstract, different things. The other problem is there is something of a divide made, even by Catholics, of the general political, social and moral teachings of the church and those pertaining more specifically to the economic field central to Distributist discussion. The full social and political teaching of traditional Christianity doesn’t leave too much unexamined, for instance you recently brought up rightful taxation, though I couldn’t reply because the combox was locked by that time. The Scriptures, Fathers, Doctors and theologians(in the broader, Western sense.) of the Church make it clear there is such a thing as legitimate taxation. However one would not find such sources and views discussed by distributists in such a context. This is partly because not many question whether traditional Christianity considers any taxation legitimate, but also because there is a partial, though not full, divide I have noticed between the narrower economic focus of distributists and the full social and political Christian teaching. For instance there is precious little discussion of forms of government, though Christian tradition has given its deep thought(indeed answers.) to such questions. This is not necessarily a completely bad thing, some narrowing of scope is sometimes needed, otherwise the project would be too ambitious and too unwieldy, but we need to remember we are somewhat artificially narrowing the scope or we end up seeng distributism conflated with the distributive state.

  45. I asked a question a while back, but didn’t get any responses. Would it be okay if I asked again?

    What is one manageable project (given talent and persistence) that could demonstrate some feature(s) of distributism?

    Is there any industry in which a guild could be built? A cooperative? Is there any project that could help a city in the throes of the housing convulsion?

    On what standard would you rate any given project?

    The thing about movements is, at first there’s a trickle that alerts people to the possibilities. We can’t debate distributism into action, we have to do something.

    For myself, the idea, whatever it is, would be implemented around the restoration of Christ the King, the actual true take-away, or trickled, idea of the deal. But the distributism element is good too.

    I think we’d have to count on the Republican party to repeal or modify just enough of the new ‘rights’ of homosexuals to put Catholics back in the game in health care and social services, since I can see so many possible projects in those areas out of which Catholics are now proscribed from participating in both by our doctrine and more recently by our own government (as in Illinois). Truly sometimes I think the health care problem won’t be solved without the participation of newly invigorated religious orders. The non-profit care which the Reformation privatized and ended was based on this pool of unpaid labor, and it may be essential to the ideal of care for all, but how to afford it?

  46. Stephen Peterson

    Janet, I’d suggest starting small. As in a vegetable garden that supplies most of your own household’s needs. And a chicken coup for eggs. That’s what my sister and her husband do in their small suburban garden. And once it’s all up an going, invite the neighbours over to see it working and explain what was involved, how much you’re saving on your weekly budget, how much better the food tastes, etc.

  47. That’s a little smaller than I imagined, Stephen, as a beginning of a movement. Although gardens are good! I hope there are some ideas that can give the idea of the economic options available to distributism.

  48. Stephen Peterson

    Janet, the reason I suggested it is to keep to the principle of economy begins at home. Moving to a localised economy is a paradigm shift. If people start taking care of their own economic needs in small ways it will be easier to make changes in bigger ways later down the track. If you try to do too much too soon you’ll have a really hard sell.
    Once you and your neighbours have your backyard gardens going, you’ll probably find yourselves trading veggies with each other, and so the neighbourhood economy begins to grow.

    On related note, I take it you’re a practicing Catholic. See if you and a dozen or so dedicated parishioners can organise to get access to the parish baptismal register for the last twenty or so years and organise a door-knock of those households. The intent isn’t to preach. Just to introduce yourselves as members of the parish, let them know you don’t live far away so if they see you at the shops they should say ‘hi’, and maybe give them a contact number for the parish “just incase”. Building community is an important first step and goes hand in hand with building local economy.

  49. Thanks, Stephen. Recently one Catholic organization suggested to its American faithful that they go forth and build a guild (I’m not going to announce it until some one of their US organs does so, if ever). On the outside chance that people respond, several hundred talented people might get on board at the organizing level, several thousand on the support level. That’s enough to organize something a little bigger. I was wishing someone had an idea that size. In any case, in Chicago, the pagans are handling the gardening concerns pretty well, with lots of local-buy clubs and farmers’ markets in every neighborhood.

  50. @Janet: I’m looking for a company to make a new injection-molded product I’ve designed. (No metaphor, it’s my actual situation.) I thought, “Local Employee-owned gets first chance, that’s what I believe is best.”

    Not easy! Directories are spotty and scattered, employee ownership can mean almost anything or almost nothing in terms of employees’ property rights in the company, and local search is still in its infancy in B-2-B searches.

    Now, let’s say I decide to go to market. The distributist way would be to license local producers across the country (once the patent is granted.) Yes, or no? How do I find them, qualify them, and make sure their quality is up to snuff? How do I keep them out of each other’s territories?

    In short, I would like advice from some old distributist hand at running a distributist business. Are there such? Kind of a SCORE for distributists?

    Right now, I don’t have any ideas about these issues. I guess I’m wondering how distributists learn to be distributist business owners — does that spark any ideas about projects that might be in our scope?

  51. @Ron: “Now, let’s say I decide to go to market. The distributist way would be to license local producers across the country (once the patent is granted.) Yes, or no? How do I find them, qualify them, and make sure their quality is up to snuff? How do I keep them out of each other’s territories?”

    First, old hand distributists! Don’t think I’m answering Ron! Keep thinking (and Ron if you don’t get more answers, ask again in other threads)!

    So, would it be helpful to have some kind of body that keeps SCORE? Does this basic work and provides a directory?

  52. Stephen Peterson

    @Janet, I’m not sure how practical it is to build an actual functioning “guild”, since a guild requires government protection if it is going to function as a guild. But, certainly, a professional fraternity that meets for prayer as well as to discuss the concerns of the respective industry can only be a good thing. Whether it can operate legally without accusations of price-fixing and so forth remains to be seen.

    If you’ve already got local produced being peddled by their growers, I’d do whatever I can to support that initiative, even if it isn’t run by Catholics. Perhaps supplement it by hosting a monthly market day at the parish?

    Does your parish publish a commercial directory? It is something that a small number of parishes do – produce a directory of all the parishioners who operate their own business, and distribute the list to everyone in the parish. If you can get something like that going in your parish the next step is to get all the business owners to assemble annually and elect a parish business council, which would oversee the directory, negotiate with the various business owners to employ the youth of the parish as much as possible, promote the various businesses in the parish, provide help to people who want to go into business with little experience, etc.
    What do you think of that idea?

  53. I’m a Distributist and a Catholic.

    I am skeptical of the motives of many if not nearly all of the contributors to this site’s main articles, in addition to most of its regular commentors. Distributism does not require Catholicism in order to be valid, and it seems to me that many of the Catholics here, tickled by their discovery of Distributism and its merits, see it as a golden tool of apologetics in order to bring others to Christ. In order for this approach to work, they utilize the arguments of Distributism in order to convince others of this bold and unique new political economic system, and after succeeding at that, move on to showing them that this great new system requires a belief in Christ/Catholicism in order to be complete, honest, and/or comprehensible. I have seen such disconnected logic repeatedly used in an apologetic sense on this site via arbitrary, disconnected logic.

    Ends do not justify means, even in religious conversion. It is not just to attempt to trick an individual who you have succeeded in converting to one new idea into believing in a second by repeating an untruth about their connectedness. It may be true that Distributism was originated by Catholic thinkers (this is debatable, but we can take it as an assumption). However, anything can be taken as a first principle.

    For example, one can argue for liberty as a first principle for philosophy. I won’t bother defining liberty, but many here would argue that it is must be based on several other principles because it is a complex idea. This is incorrect. The complexity of the idea does not restrict it from becoming an assumed first principle. This is important, because any tenet of Distributism can in reality be taken as a first principle, without requiring any other reference to morality or metaphysics. In the end, first principles are primarily semantical, thus when an idea is properly semantically defined it has achieved the only needed requisite to assume the role of a first principle.

    It is for this reason that Distributism and Catholicism require no connection. Because Distributism is thought to have originated from Catholic thinkers, it is generally examined most by Christian thinkers, and those thinkers take Christian first principles and apply them to test the theory. However, one can, through experience (or through theory) adopt any first principle that one finds worthwhile. It is merely a starting point for understanding the world, or for behaving in it, or both.

    Arguing that Distributism is inherently Catholic in the sense of exclusivity is dishonest, a practice inherently non-Catholic, and threatens to sever a growing interest in Distributism from a vast population of curious non-Catholic youth. The reasons for continuously linking Distributism necessarily to Catholicism may be well intentioned, but the result will not be a positive one for the Distributist movement. I urge contributors to this site to rethink their strategy.

  54. I’m a Distributist and a Catholic.

    I am skeptical of the motives of many if not nearly all of the contributors to this site’s main articles, in addition to most of its regular commentors. Distributism does not require Catholicism in order to be valid, and it seems to me that many of the Catholics here, tickled by their discovery of Distributism and its merits, see it as a golden tool of apologetics in order to bring others to Christ. In order for this approach to work, they utilize the arguments of Distributism in order to convince others of this bold and unique new political economic system, and after succeeding at that, move on to showing them that this great new system requires a belief in Christ/Catholicism in order to be complete, honest, and/or comprehensible. I have seen such disconnected logic repeatedly used in an apologetic sense on this site via arbitrary, disconnected logic.

    Ends do not justify means, even in religious conversion. It is not just to attempt to trick an individual who you have succeeded in converting to one new idea into believing in a second by repeating an untruth about their connectedness. It may be true that Distributism was originated by Catholic thinkers (this is debatable, but we can take it as an assumption). However, anything can be taken as a first principle.

    For example, one can argue for liberty as a first principle for philosophy. I won’t bother defining liberty, but many here would argue that it is must be based on several other principles because it is a complex idea. This is incorrect. The complexity of the idea does not restrict it from becoming an assumed first principle. This is important, because any tenet of Distributism can in reality be taken as a first principle, without requiring any other reference to morality or metaphysics. In the end, first principles are primarily semantical, thus when an idea is properly semantically defined it has achieved the only needed requisite to assume the role of a first principle.

    It is for this reason that Distributism and Catholicism require no connection. Because Distributism is thought to have originated from Catholic thinkers, it is generally examined most by Christian thinkers, and those thinkers take Christian first principles and apply them to test the theory. However, one can, through experience (or through theory) adopt any first principle that one finds worthwhile. It is merely a starting point for understanding the world, or for behaving in it, or both.

    Arguing that Distributism is inherently Catholic in the sense of exclusivity is dishonest, a practice inherently non-Catholic, and threatens to sever a growing interest in Distributism from a vast population of curious non-Catholic youth. The reasons for continuously linking Distributism necessarily to Catholicism may be well intentioned, but the result will not be a positive one for the Distributist movement. I urge contributors to this site to rethink their strategy.

  55. @Janet “So, would it be helpful to have some kind of body that keeps SCORE? Does this basic work and provides a directory?” Yes, that’s a project that might help — is it in our scope? A website with a central registry would be cheap, but finding names to fill it might be the hardest part.

  56. @Janet & @Stephen, could a union become a guild? The biggest difference seems to be that a guild takes responsibility for the quality of its members’ work. Of course, the unhealthy dependence of the union on having “enemy” management would have to go.

    It might be necessary to constitutionally limit officers’ compensation to that of a master guild member per hour. That would eliminate the tendency to grow the guild beyond what’s necessary for the sake of gaining power and dues.

    Perhaps the construction trades would be a good starting point. Skilled tradespeople often resent the union’s tendency to grow the membership with less-skilled people. An independent union that warrants its members work, and whose officers have no incentive to increase membership, might be welcomed.

  57. Stephen Peterson

    @Andromedus
    I’m not sure if anyone is trying to suggest that you have to be Catholic to follow distributism, or that distributism is a bait to bring people to the Catholic religion. The suggestion I just made to Janet was about how distributism could be implemented taking advantage of existing Catholic structures. This suggestion could equally be applied to a local Protestant or other religious community were people have some kind of existing point of mutual identification.
    ————–
    @Ron
    No, a union couldn’t be a guild. The point of a guild is that its members are all self-employer, and its associates are all aspiring to become self-employed. It is, essentially, a professional organisation for people of independent wealth of the same profession to get together for mutual support and self-regulation, and to set the standards for new members to be incorporated into the organisation. The reason a guild doesn’t have “enemy management” is because the guild members are both the workers and the owner/managers.
    A union, on the other hand, is for members of a proletariat to band together for mutual protection by means of collective bargaining with their powerful employers.

  58. @Stephen: “The point of a guild is that its members are all self-employer, and its associates are all aspiring to become self-employed.”

    Agreed; that’s what I meant by independent. I was thinking that a guild might use the legal structures available to the unions, but then build on to that the quality control and mutualism that a guild requires. Guilds might be more achievable if they were just an evolutionary way to use what’s already there.

  59. @Andromedus. The thing about Catholics uniting their distributism and their Catholicism is that no system that does not have Christ and His teachings (as interpreted by the magisterium of the Catholic Church) can work. This is the teaching of traditional Catholicism. This was abandoned at Vatican II, which formally renounced the Restoration, formally embraced secularism, and actually pressured the five remaining Catholics religious states to rewrite their constitutions to leave the Church and Christ out. (Following what has happened to Columbia since would be a great book.) Since Vatican II the imperialist forces, or monopoly, or whatever word one wishes to use for the development of capitalism–the deconstruction of capitalism, really–have trashed the protections and services flowing from the age of the Catholic religious state. This has to be restored, Vatican II must be renounced, and the only way to do it is to put Christ back in the center. All becomes ordered then, in justice. (It is basically unjust both personally and civilly to act as if God does not exist and did not reveal the path to salvation of society through Jesus Christ.) Secularism is a flat ugly lie. No economic fix is possible in a philosophical environment that must, by denying God, put individual life or morality at the whim of the majority.

    We need an economic fix. Our children and grandchildren are becoming slaves right before our eyes. None is possible without a Catholic religious state. (Read Quas Primas. Available at the vatican web site, I presume, and still ignored there. But that’s slowly changing.)

  60. @ Stephen: I can’t find your comment here about hosting a monthly market day at the parish, or about setting up a parish business council. (Thread getting long!) But they were terrific ideas! Absolutely do-able in the name of Christ the King, absolutely useful! Our parish does not have a parking lot, is one small problem, but perhaps we could arrange to share one close by. There are lots of farmers’ markets in Chicago, but what there is not is humane meat-producing farmers’ markets. I myself drive to Addison to pick up free-range grass-fed humanely-killed meat from a little coop of farmers in Indiana. There is no Chicago site for pick-up.

    You really came through! Thanks for both ideas! May God reward you!

    @ everybody: I just don’t know enough about guilds to know how we could do it here. Seems like it would work best in new industries that are still small. I’m pretty sure this government, both parties, which wants to stir up and use mob sentiment and class hatred,of which guild is the complete opposite, would make it illegal somehow. I’m going to have to let the whole subject simmer, and investigate more (although one group of Catholics has been charged, as I mentioned earlier, as of right now, with ‘building guilds’ in the name of Christ the King; so, we have been charged, and I have always been an obedient girl; it’s just that presently the notion not as theoretical or historical, but something for now, in our legal environment, is hard to get one’s head around).

  61. @Janet “So, would it be helpful to have some kind of body that keeps SCORE? Does this basic work and provides a directory?” Yes, that’s a project that might help — is it in our scope? A website with a central registry would be cheap, but finding names to fill it might be the hardest part.

    I’m not actually sure what the original intent of the word SCORE was. I am understanding it as a set of indicators of excellence in some particular area(s). The body in question could be the visitators. (I was team leader in school re-accreditation during my teaching career; it’s what I said.) We have a crying need for such a thing in so many areas. It would be volunteer labor, that’s the only way it can be paid for. (This came easily back in the day in the form of the volunteer labor of religious orders, and I don’t think we can solve the health care crisis without a restoration of these religious orders. By the way.)

  62. @Janet, by SCORE I meant the Service Corps of Retired Executives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCORE_Association I guessed you weren’t quite up to speed, but it didn’t seem that important, you got the gist.

  63. Andromedus; apart from being supremely ungenerous you have not defined distributism and seem simply be talking about the distributive state, which can more or less be detached from traditional Christianity. I however, though I’m Orthodox and not Roman Catholic, see the full ideology of distributism as simply the Social Teaching of traditional Christianity(what Rene Du Tour Du Pin called Social Christianity, though he realised the social was somewhat redundant.). It is from this, from it that I deduce the need for the distributive state. I’m quite open about my position, so there is no danger of anyone being tricked. I may be more forthright than many other distributists, but I think they are basically in the same position. Distributism means more than the distributive state, most distributists realise this, there is therefore no trickery going on. It is rather you confuse the nature of distributism(though perhaps you are not helped by the clumsy name of the movement.).

    It is ironic you chose liberty as an example of a first principle, because traditionally(in the Patristic-Platonic and Aristotlian-Thomistic traditions.) it has been defined, to paraphrase Bonald, as acting according to one’s nature. Which means it is not in fact a fist principle and does require metaphysical and moral definition. Anyone can adopt the distributive state as their social ideal, but the reasons will be metaphysical and moral(even if they don’t realise it.).

    So to basically sum up, you mistake is to see distributism as virtually only concerned with the distributive state, with abstract widespread distribution of real, productive property. Even many ideologies, from mutualism and various forms of anarchism to adapted forms of social democracy and neo-liberalism might be able to approach this ideal in the abstract. That does not mean we can have an uncomplicated relationship with any one who believes in something close to the distributive state, because, and this is key, there is more to Catholic(and Orthodox and Anglican.) distributism than this. There is not trickery involved, it is simply you are mistaken.

  64. I am skeptical of the motives of many if not nearly all of the contributors to this site’s main articles, in addition to most of its regular commentors.

    I’m sorry Andronicus, this is not the case. See my post above: http://distributistreview.com/mag/2011/10/occupy-wall-street/comment-page-1/#comment-3670

    The issue is not that Distributists are Catholic, it is that Distributism arises from Catholic principles, enlightening the ancient philosophers on the same subject. As I said above, one does not need to be Catholic in order to be distributist. One of the occasional contributors to this site, Dr. Race Matthews, is a protestant. You’re simply going to have to deal with the Catholic overtones of distributism. Sorry.

  65. Stephen Peterson

    @Ron
    I’m not sure how that could be done. Aren’t the legal structures available to unions designed to protect their ability to form collective agreements? I’m not sure how things work in the U.S. but here in Australia managers are generally excluded from holding offices in the union. And I’m not sure how the right to strike or the right to have a representative speak at a workplace without management interference could benefit a guild of professionals? Did you have an idea in mind?

  66. I’m not sure how that could be done. Aren’t the legal structures available to unions designed to protect their ability to form collective agreements? I’m not sure how things work in the U.S. but here in Australia managers are generally excluded from holding offices in the union.

    I’m happy that this column has generated the comments it has, and I apologize that I can’t address all the points here.

    On guilds: firstly, in the US by the 1979 Labor Relations act, supervisors are forbidden from joining unions, so it is the same as in Australia. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, in theory it is supposed to keep supervisors from acting against the interests of their employees based on grudges. In reality it polarizes a union shop, and prevents meaningful discussion between supervisors and employees.

    Now a guild was set up and run on fundamentally different principles from Unions. Unions are not bad in principle, but how they have been politicized and run is based not on collective bargaining but on mob tactics. Moreover, most unions are staffed by bureaucrats who are paid for “x” number of things they are able to push. Often Unions do little for their members (though not always, there are good and notable exceptions), but for example, what have the meat packers and butchers’ unions done to help butchers and prevent market consolidation by the biggest meat packing plants in the country? Virtually nothing, they have worked hand in hand.

    Now a Guild is based not merely on collective bargaining, that is only a process. Unions are based on apprenticeship, craftsmanship, just competition and living wages. They are made up of “masters” (I suppose in a certain sense supervisors) who oversee others in the trade. The only thing in a modern sense that comes close is an “occupational group”. I’m in the process of writing something of that nature that will try to hash that out in the future. In the meantime, all we have is the Union. There is no reason why we can’t push unions to actually represent employees, but often they are just another part of the “system”. Moreover when unions do push for wages, they often go to far, as in the auto industry, and rather than push for a just and living wage, they push for excessive wages. The problem here is you can’t demand more from an employer than he can reasonably pay. Justice is a two-way street, and the employer has rights too. This is something that has to be properly taken into account when talking of a living wage. I hope that helps inject some seminal thought into the discussion.

  67. That was a good post, Ryan, the last. But I believe you meant “Guilds” instead of “Unions” when starting the second sentence of the last paragraph.
    Viking

  68. Alas, quite right!

  69. @Ryan, thanks for the response. I believe you made a meaningful “slip of the pen.” If a union did the things you mentioned, it would be indistinguishable from a guild — which was my point, although I obviously didn’t make it very well.

    So, if a “union” could be set up as an association of independent workers (not in opposition to a company’s management,) it would be more “guildlike.” Is that possible?

    If a “union” were to select its officers from among the master craftspersons in its membership, and pay them for their union duties at the going rate for workers of that level, then it would be more “guildlike.” Is that possible?

    As I worked down your list of differences, I couldn’t find one characteristic of a guild that a union couldn’t emulate, if they so chose. One difference between a guild and a union wasn’t on the list, but I believe it is the most critical of all: the guild warrants its members’ work.

    That’s why the guild sets the standards and qualifications and determines members’ fitness for their assignments — because the guild covers the cost of incompetence. Could an organization that is incorporated as a union do this if they wished? If they did, wouldn’t they be a guild in all but name?