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Dissatisfaction over our economy is creating popular movements and encouraging radical changes to our social system. Led by the disillusioned young, Occupy Wall Street protestors are voicing opposition against the heart of American finance, large corporations, and the revolving doors of government. Occupy protests are held in hundreds of cities with the goal of building solidarity amongst the citizens against institutionalized injustice, which comes at the expense of the poor and middle class. As an elderly Jewish rabbi said to me, “Who did Jesus talk about in the Gospel? The poor. We no longer talk about the poor. We’ve lost our souls.”

One week ago, someone reminded me that if Distributism is to leave a mark in the minds of the general public, we could not fail to show up at the Occupy Wall Street protest and offer an alternative model far superior to both capitalism and socialism. Indeed, it can be easy to live in ivory towers and forget how fundamental it is to walk among the common man, to listen to him, and to recognize that all of us are called to be instruments of the truth. For us to illuminate a tunnel we must walk through it and help carry the crosses of others while balancing our own.

With a thousand Distributism flyers in tow, I was not sure what to expect when I approached Cedar Street and Broadway, the organizational heart of the movement and the designated spot a few blocks from Wall Street. The site is surrounded by protest signs and worn blankets for those braving the cold New York City overnights. A makeshift kitchen, supplied by generous donations, feeds the protestors and the destitute and rests alongside the laptop-filled headquarters of the movement. The “People’s Library” sits by a bulkhead stuffed with literature on economic justice and a hodgepodge of political ideas. Facing Broadway, people hold up signs made out of cardboard, like one man whose sign read, “The People Need a Bail Out.” Pamphlets are laid for the curious, with material ranging from The Catholic Worker newspaper to The Distributist Herald just a few feet away from pedestrians, protestors, and the police, all of whom seem mutually uncomfortable with one another.

Message for Protestors on Wall St.

Prejudiced by what I saw in the media, I anticipated a group of naïve, fresh-faced suburban kids standing around in Che Guevara t-shirts, the communist icon ironically made popular by capitalist merchandising. Instead, I discovered serious people asking pertinent questions about the direction of our economy and society. I met with Ron Paul supporters and other libertarians, the poor and destitute, socialists and capitalists. These protestors are upset with a nation that has forgotten the needy, a government that has left us with an enormous debt and jobless, while “Too Big to Fail” heads of finance make bonuses from taxpayer funds. Based on my conversations with the participants, most stood in support of a living wage for employees, job creation, the elimination of corporate “personhood,” affordable health care, and the re-enactment of Glass-Steagall, all of which are laudable goals. This is not to say the movement is entirely clear about what they want or how to get it, or that there is any cohesive position among those in Occupy Wall Street about how to fix our problems. “I’m not political. I’m just here because I have a master’s degree, can’t find work, and have no place to go,” Justin said, “the system has to change.” I met few who didn’t share political aspirations, but the concern amongst critics of the occupiers is that a leaderless movement without key goals will make it susceptible to coercion by status quo political ideologies, as what happened with the Tea Party.

Nevertheless, these protestors represent the man on the street’s growing dissatisfaction with our political and economic system, and provide an opportunity for Distributists to give them the direction necessary to solve the mess we are in; goals critics refuse to address face to face and on the street, inevitably losing their relevance and support as a consequence. “THIS is a real alternative to capitalism and socialism,” we said as contributors and readers of The Distributist Review handed out almost six hundred flyers to pedestrians and protestors. Whether in conversation with union members, the press, or the protestors themselves, the surprising interest in resurrecting family and worker-owned, local-driven businesses is encouraging. Indeed, capitalists and socialists talk a lot about jobs. Few repeat what G.K. Chesterton said best,

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

The problem with the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street is that one group looks to Big Business and the other to Big Government in an effort to solve our problems. It is certainly true that government’s primary task is to oversee the common good and, with some exceptions, the OWS crowd is mostly right about what is wrong. They rightly stand against injustice, the overindulgence of corporations at the expense of the American taxpayer and those bordering on and under the poverty line. This appeal to government is natural, because as Chesterton said,

A Catholic does not complain of there being a County Council or a Post Office, because recognized government has a right to rule; because social order itself has a natural and even a divine authority. But mere money has not even the smallest human authority.

The question then becomes, if the collusion between Big Business and Big Government will not, at present, provide Occupiers with a top-down approach, what do we expect in the aftermath of Occupy Wall Street? Our flyer was prepared in order to offer a new direction for those attending or passing by the Occupy protests. Our message is simple: job creation is a thing of the past. We can create jobs of our own through the bottom-up approach of the Distributist program. Yes, we should discuss economic policy in America, and when injustices are perpetuated against the middle class and the poor, it is absolutely right to protest, just as we should when the genocide of abortion is carried out with the support of the private and public sector. We march, we pray, and we counsel. But the debate shouldn’t be over which sector, public or private, can offer us the sweeter deal. We should “change the terms of the debate,” and ask ourselves if the discussion over who gets a job is relevant, and if perhaps the creation of an ownership society is the remedy for over 100 years of conflict between capital and labor. Distributism eliminates the friction between capitalist and laborer by making them one and the same person. I haven’t met a capitalist or socialist who can find anything wrong with that, and most of the people I interviewed praised a society of micro-property.

Today, our flyer is being handed out not only on Wall Street, but in cities like Spokane, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis and this is one more reason why Distributism is viable. It sparks the imagination in the common man and encourages him not only to write, but to act.

After talking for ten minutes and looking over my pamphlet, the same rabbi said to me, “What you are doing is important. This is what we need. Keep doing what you are doing and continue to preach the Beatitudes of Jesus!”

For a PDF version of our flyer, click here.

For a JPG version of our flyer, click here.

Adapted from a shorter version that was published in Gilbert Magazine.

 

About the author: Richard Aleman

 

Richard Aleman is the president of The Society for Distributism, a contributing editor for Gilbert Magazine, The Remnant, and he blogs at St. Austin Review‘s Ink Desk. A native Spaniard, Richard resides in New York where he has just completed The Hound of Distributism, a book of various authors.

 

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51 Comments

  1. The mess called “Occupy Wall Street” is far more coopted by the the Left than the Tea Party are far more quickly.

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  4. “After talking for ten minutes and looking over my pamphlet, the same rabbi said to me, ‘What you are doing is important. This is what we need. Keep doing what you are doing and continue to preach the Beatitudes of Jesus!’”

    This from a rabbi yet! I’ll agree with Ken that the Left is moving quickly to co-opt the OWS and its counterparts in other cities, although the whole thing smells of “astroturf”. That doesn’t mean, though, that distributists can’t undermine their efforts by actually educating the people rather than just handing them protest signs.

  5. There are honest and sincere folks in the Tea Party movement and in the OWS movement. The powers that be have managed to turn the muddle class against itself.

    Thank you for getting the message out there! Keep up the good work.

  6. Stephen Peterson

    Good job Richard. A glimmer of hope in a messy world.

  7. Great job Sir, God Bless you! I downloaded and will print some of these and spread them about.

  8. The hypocrisy of the media has been hilarious on this subject. The mainstream leftwing media has been lauding unconditionally, after they viciously smeared the Tea Party and Fox News has been viciously smearing OWS after it lauded the Tea Party.

    It is good to see that there will be distributist voices heard at the protests though. Good job.

  9. @ MartinK: Yes … just long enough to be flip and dismissive. Much like knowing you’re coming up in the entertainment industry when Don Rickles heckles you.

  10. I’m sympathetic to what I know about Distributism, and also, while being a conservative, to the plight of the under-class as articulated by OWS.

    What I have not been able to find is any strategy for transitioning to Distributism. What steps should we take: What now? Then what?

    What’s the plan for getting there?

  11. Hi Bryce,

    We do offer recommendations in our literature (Resources Page) and John Medaille’s book, along with Race Mathews’ “Jobs of Our Own” offer many suggestions for building Distributism from the bottom-up.

  12. +AMDG
    .
    This is great work!

  13. If you could turn that flyer into an easy to post jpg instead of putting it in evil pdf form, you could give it much wider circulation.

    Nice work on the OWS evangelization!

  14. So it shall be written, so it shall be done!
    .
    Thanks, Mark!

  15. Richard,

    I am impressed with the effort. I realize that the following recommendation doesn’t take into account you have a job or other responsibilities in life, but it would be interesting to see you interact with some of these folks. Perhaps a YouTube video or simple podcast.

    As for me, I will work to carve out some time to deliver some flyers the Norfolk protests.

  16. Your flyer says you support interest-free lending. How much money do you lend at zero interest?

  17. Could you provide a version that doesn’t include ‘Rights of the Unborn’ in the footer? A distributist country would allow those types of policies to be decided through local institutions and many of us are not Catholic.

  18. Stephen Peterson

    I’ll second the YouTube video idea if that’s possible.

  19. Dear Andrew,
    .
    While I respect your opinion, the flyer was created by The Society for Distributism, and while we ask our supporters and readers to please print it, pass it out, and share the flyer, we are a pro-life organization and support the rights of the unborn.

  20. Dear Gary,

    We support micro-credit lending and yes, we support lending practices that have as their goal the furthering of productive property ownership and investment at no interest, particularly socially and morally conscious lending.

  21. Richard,

    I modified your design slightly and took out the reference to the Society for Distributism and this website. Do you mind if I post the link for others looking for a generic distributist flyer to pass out?

  22. Key Signs you might be a member of the Acton Institute; 1.You care more about 18th century sophists and 19th century economists than 2000 years of the teachings of Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church and prelates, theologians and Popes. 2. Rather than beginning with Christ and the Christian view of man, you are idolatrously obsessed with the free market, and markets in general, and unhealthily gleeful at the thought of modern consumer goods. 3. You want your Icons sponsored by Apple, your communion bread made by MacDonalds and the great Feelosopher added to the titles of bishops. – One does wonder why they’d try and take on distributists with such paltry, lifeless offerings of humour when we have Chesterton, not to mention the likes of Cobbett, on our side.

    Bryce Lee, I’m also a conservative, indeed a traditionalist or raging reactionary. I know my Burke and my Bonald back to front. Distributism and conservatism are not mutually exclusive, indeed I cannot imagine a better economic ideology for a traditional conservative to subscribe to.

  23. Your flier made it up here to Maine, and we think it is brilliant! I’ll be putting together a column for CatholicMaine.com as part of the (former) Daily Chesterton offering. Visiting your site has inspired me to resurrect that column. Thank you!

  24. Please explain to me how a distributionist economy would develop Iv antibiotics to resistant bacteria, New Medical imaging machines like modern 3D ultrasounds, Anti-cancer drugs, Computer controlled anti-lock brakes, Cell phones technology that allows my wife to call AAA if her car breaks down, computer controlled air traffic control systems, and so forth. It takes very large corporations to do these things, it is not clear a “distributionist” economy could do these things. If the goal is to eliminate poverty it seems like the current economy is quite good, in the United States the bottom 5% in terms of “wealth” have a standard of living that is better than 60% of the rest of the world. In the United States 65% of those that are classified as poor have amenities like cell phones, about 2/3 have DVD players, 90% own a microwave oven, and so forth. A dynamic capitalist economy creates a system that essentially eliminates poverty as known by the rest of the world.

  25. @ mrd:

    “Please explain to me how a distributionist economy would develop Iv antibiotics to resistant bacteria, New Medical imaging machines like modern 3D ultrasounds, Anti-cancer drugs, Computer controlled anti-lock brakes, Cell phones technology that allows my wife to call AAA if her car breaks down, computer controlled air traffic control systems, and so forth. It takes very large corporations to do these things, it is not clear a “distributionist” economy could do these things.”

    Your argument seems to be, “Because big companies did this, only big companies can do this.” The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premiss. Second, it isn’t necessary for big companies to completely disappear from the planet for a distributist economy to obtain.

    “If the goal is to eliminate poverty it seems like the current economy is quite good, in the United States the bottom 5% in terms of “wealth” have a standard of living that is better than 60% of the rest of the world. In the United States 65% of those that are classified as poor have amenities like cell phones, about 2/3 have DVD players, 90% own a microwave oven, and so forth. A dynamic capitalist economy creates a system that essentially eliminates poverty as known by the rest of the world.”

    Spoken like a person who has never actually lived in poverty in the US, or who is too far removed from it to remember. The argument seems to be, “You’ve got a cell phone and a personal computer, so quit whining about health care, job insecurity and a dubious future.” Cell phones don’t do much good if you can’t pay the bill; microwaves are pretty useful for heating up the cups of Ramen noodles you have to buy to stretch the food budget. So okay, the average person in the bottom 5% lives a little better than someone in Mumbai … but he’s not swimming in cream. Moreover, the odds are about 24:1 against his ever climbing out above the poverty line into the upper-middle class. It’s not “poverty as known by the rest of the world” … but it’s still poverty.

  26. Mrd; you show no attempt to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of these types of technology you name or the systems that have to support them. Now distributists themselves could do with spending a little more time in doing this as well. It is interesting, and perhaps not completely unintentional, you focus particularly on medical technology, as I would argue this area of technology, as well as sanitation, are one of the few areas where we have unequivocally gained by technological ‘progress'(if we can segment different parts of what is a partially interrelated process.). In other areas the discussion is far more complex. The works of Lewis Mumford, Ivan Illich and E.F Schumacher, as well as Chesterton and Belloc themselves, are good starting points for a discussion on technology. The decentralist Leopold Kohr also wrote some interesting things on the modern, Western propensity to multiply necessities rather than provide more ‘luxuries’ and therefore the equivocal nature of much of our increased ‘wealth’.

    The economy that has produced modern technological ‘progress’, since the 19th century, is replete with state intervention. So free market dreamers cannot unconditionally claim the fruits of its ‘success’. However it is a good topic to bring up and one we distributists need to spend more time concentrating on and more time developing our alternative vision.

  27. @mrd, @Anthony S. Layne, @Wessexman
    I would add that views about appropriate technology are not intrinsic to distributism per se, and that distributists don’t all have the same views in this area. I myself am all for caution, intentionality, and solidarity in the development and use of new technology.
    Moreover, in answer to mrd’s original question: In the excellent Distributist-Capitalist-Socialist debate in which Thomas Storck participated, you’ll find his insightful responses to Robert Novak on this very issue. If I recall, he focuses on the role of “occupational groups” in new technological research. Perhaps Mr. Storck has similar thoughts in written forms somewhere on this site?

  28. I have the exact same questions as MRD does regarding distributism, and it does not appear as if any of the responses have actually addressed them beyond evident disgust for having had the audacity to ask such impertinent questions in the first place. IF distributism is ever to be taken seriously as an economic theory its defenders had better become far more adept at addressing such reasonably and courteously stated questions or they run the risk of being dismissed offhand as a bunch of cranks. And please spare me the “well then I guess Pope A,B and C are cranks” non-responsive response which I have seen far too much from Distributism advocates. It is not a way of engaging the issue but of avoiding it, unless you can prove that there is any dogmatic writing which establishes Distributism, as defined and advocated by Mr Adelman, Mr Stork, Mr Ferrara and others as THE economic school of thought of the Church, much as the philosophy of Aquinas has been declared the philosophy of the Church.

  29. Actually his questions have been addressed very well by three different people, given the constraints of the combox. Mrd made comments about technology without trying to properly and deeply evaluate the role of technology in society. This is a common, indeed dominant, attitude in a society today that sees the globalised, consumerist and technocratic ‘progress’ as inevitable and one-dimensional. This is not necessarily the case, it is perfectly legitimate to question anyone, particularly someone who is a Christian, who takes speculated ‘progress’ as the supreme value against which to judge political and economic ideas and perspectives. It is in fact you and Mrd who are the ones avoiding proper discussion of such issues.

    When it comes to the place of distributism within Christianity then it is the clear case that distributism(or social Christianity.) is the only school of economic thought that tries to bases itself in the Christian view of man and society and therefore Scripture, the Fathers and the traditions of the Church. I’m Orthodox(slowly transitioning from high Church Anglicanism.), not Roman Catholic and I do not need the recent Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs(as much as I respect these documents.) to see this obvious truth. All the other economic schools give at least as much space, even when it comes to first social principles, for sophists and feelosophers of the last few centuries or unthinking, popular attitudes(like the inevitably, obvious unequivocal benefits and one-dimensional nature of technological ‘progress’) or a combination of these positions. Distributism is simply Social Christianity or the social principles of Christianity properly thought out. I’d even recommend we switch labels because the distributive state, essential as it is, logically and intellectually proceeds from and is anterior to our traditional Christian view of man and society through what this tells us about family, Church, community, work and so forth.

  30. Stephen Peterson

    Contrary to popular myth, there was significant technological development before shareholder corporations came into existence. In fact, by the Fourteenth Century Western Europe was the most advanced civilisation in the world. Technology was developed by the monasteries, through sponsorship by patronage, and through cooerative guild enterprises, and also through the universities. The recent, more rapid, developments of the Twentieth Century can be put down more to the invention of the microchip than to any economic situation.

  31. One other point needs to be made: A lot of objections to distributism seem to focus on the fact that distributism places emphasis on local co-ops and family-owned businesses. But the example of Mondragon keeps coming up because it’s a major European corporation (€14.7 billion in revenue in 2010) that is completely employee-owned … the kind of large, interconnected business that could support R&D. Also, under a distributist system the role of a federal government wouldn’t completely disappear; modern government spending includes substantial funds for defense R&D, which has been the springboard for many if not most of the technological advances we enjoy today. As Wessexman points out, mrd’s “question” — really an attempt at a rebuttal disguised as a rhetorical question — was full of unexamined assumptions. To pull those assumptions apart is not to evade.

  32. Hi Mr. Aleman,

    That flyer is an awesome start at getting the Distributist message out into the streets. But when I first read it, the second sentence in the main text was a bit confusing. At first I interpretted the “We” as referring to the author. It took me some time to realize that it was referring to American society. It could probably be made clearer if it read:

    “Capitalists and Socialists love to talk about jobs. In our current society life revolves around working for somebody else instead of for ourselves…”

    The “We” in the third sentence will probably be acceptable after the context is set in the second sentence.

    As I said, this is a really good start! I think we have all been waiting for this opportunity that is now open to us.

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  34. Great idea, but where did the name come from? The name “Distributism” (not the theory) sounds too socialist for my taste. I wish it were called something else.

    We have been self-employed for more than 25 years and now, facing the fourth year of the recession, survive mostly because of work offered by family and church friends. Keeping things local is what it’s all about!

    The end result of a movement like this would be a people who are more self-sufficient, more self-assured, and who look out for themselves and each other and don’t expect the government to take care of them. It is a far cry from the “I’m owed something” mentality that is running rampant in our society now!

    But who will lend money at zero-percent interest? That part confuses me.

  35. LeeAnn Balbirona

    Thanks for the flyer. I posted to my facebook page. Good conversation here!

  36. Hi Chris,

    I would suggest reading my article, “The Immigrants… Part II” where I discuss Jak Bank and other interest-free and micro-lending programs. While some microcredit schemes do charge interest and do so to cover overhead or furthering their programs, Belloc described productive lending as partnering (investing) in businesses generating social wealth.
    .
    The case should be made that the furthering of socially and morally-conscious businesses would be reason to lend at no interest–simply an administrative charge to cover any costs needed to recover the original value lent. Lending institutions and individuals could choose to lend free of interest in order to raise the social wealth of the community, to build reputation, or increase the volume of socially and morally-conscious for and non, profit businesses.

  37. Just a factual correction…It is a myth that the protestors are in need of blankets because of “the cold New York City nights” As a New York City resident, I can attest to the fact that we have been having a very warm spell these past few weeks. In fact, I’m waiting for the chill in the air to arrive to see how many protestors remain after the weather changes.

  38. Hi Chris,

    We distributists have always agreed that our name is the worst part about us. If you have a better idea, we would love to hear it!

    As far as interest free loans go, here is the argument against interest bearing loans.

    http://distributistreview.com/mag/2011/07/the-errors-of-the-economists-usury/

  39. The Middle Ages were the archetype of a “Distributist” society and, all in all, managed the technology they had very well, and developed the (admittedly simple) technology that their projects required.

    Can we even conceive of an economy so strong that a man could work half the year and earn enough to feed his family for the entire year? See “Economics and Cathedrals” at http://www.theeye-witness.blogspot.com. Amazing stuff.

    Great article, Mr Aleman. Admirable that advantage is being taken of the OWS movement to awaken people to a better way of living.

  40. Desmond Collingworth

    Hello Mr. Aleman. I applaud you for doing exactly what I would hope a distribust militant would do.

    However, I only have one criticism regarding the content of your great flyer: The inclusion of the “Rights of the Unborn” among the causes you support since it needlessly turns off people who attracted to the concept of a distributist economy but strongly believe in women’s right to choose.

  41. While I am sure he does not need it, I urge The Society for Distributism to continue to defend the defenseless. One of Distributism’s greatest advocates, G.K. Chesterton, would have found the modern-day paradox profoundly revealing of society’s disordered priorities in which we can serve hard time in prison for the destruction of a Loon’s egg, yet we retain a Constitutionally guaranteed right to kill our unborn human babies.

    Also, very instructive that this sentence always seems unfinished: “but strongly believe in women’s right to choose.” Right to choose what? To kill her unborn? To terminate her pregnancy? If you give voice to the action, it does seem rather unseemly, eh?

  42. Distributism is based on Christian morality and the Christian view of man. These know nothing of the ‘woman’s right to choose’ because she doesn’t have one.

  43. re: Desmond Collingworth — I understand what you are saying. There are broad areas of common ground between Distributists and secular decentralization movements. These should (and I believe will) be explored and relationships of mutual interest developed. The issue of abortion should not become a “deal-breaker” for individuals on EITHER side of the question. We have human suffering, war, injustice, exploitation and environmental destruction on a world-wide scale. Even surviving, let alone prospering in the coming years, is going take all the cooperation we little people can muster. As Kang said: “Only a fool fights in a burning house.”

  44. Don’t forget Chicago!! Viva Cristo Rey.

  45. May I briefly say to those who oppose the mention of abortion and Catholicism: it won’t happen without it, and I think you must get used to Catholic leadership in this matter, just as we accepted black leadership back in the SNCC days. There are doctrinal reasons to be found in those encyclicals as to why no society can function that denies the natural centrality of Christ; there are also practical ones of which I personally have better knowledge, having actively participated in every movement from the civil rights era onward, and knowing too well that they failed ultimately because of sin–the plain old variety, adultery, fornication, theft, deceit. If we want to win, it will take a cadre in the state of grace to lead it. Only the Church with its sacraments, all perfectly designed to assist in the distribution of grace, can tip the scale on that side (and notice I said only tip the scale; it’s always a horse-race).

    iiYou might gag on that idea, but think, haven’t you yourself thought at one time or another that a system like distributism can only work among high functioning individuals? Because it does, in the regulation of monopololy at the very least, frustrate a strong impulse among human beings. Hasn’t that crossed your mind? Saying ‘in the state of grace’ is better, though, because it is a measurable standard, benchmarks having been established for thousands of years. And now, after Christ’s great sacrafice, we have tools to help us. If you wish to substitute aps, feel free. You know they work. You know they help. We need them. If you aren’t Catholic, you will still benefit from the reign of Christ the King. We are not puritans, not jansenists, and (okay, I’m sorry to say it but I’m going to) I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t decriminalize pot just like the libertarians. Pot grows in the ground, a gift from God. That’s my own personal opinion only!! But Catholics don’t forbid alcohol, and our societies tend to be rather DADT in everything. Confession makes that possible, by the way.

    Regarding abortion, there isn’t any way this economy can be healed as long as you keep killing the internal markets. I don’t mean that. They are killing souls, to hell with markets. But natural law and Eternal Law cannot contradict each other, and the natural laws of economics follow the Eternal Law: thou shalt not kill other human beings. Except they put it differently, natural-law wise: it is unwise to kill the producers and consumers. No one has that right, not even their mothers. We have killed fifty four million souls in the last forty years, and every one of them had a VISA card in its little hand. Not to mention the creativity lost! The thing is, you can endorse it early and give women back marriage and love and everything Catholicism offers women, or you can wait until the fascists get around to figuring out that it is costing them markets, and then you’ll have fascism’s version for women. And I don’t want to say it. I don’t want to think about it. The horror of it will be right out of Handmaiden’s Tale.

    I’m cooking and can’t say more. I’ve probably already said too much. But I’ve been in so many movements, and seen the same development over and over, to end in disappointment, not over the doctrine, but over the behavior. If the Soviet Union had been virtuous, it would still exist. Their doctrine was faulty, but economics is actually rather forgiving, as long as you keep reproducing, that is. Truly, it takes Christ. It takes Christ.

  46. “a system like distributism can only work among high functioning individuals?”

    Well said, Janet Baker. In fact, one could extend the argument: that of all economic systems, Distributism may be the most difficult to achieve because it requires that all participants be pure of heart and intention, generous of spirit and possession, free of greed and corruption.

    By contrast, socialism, capitalism, and all the various and sundry -isms/schisms practically require that there exist a measure of greed, corruption, power mongering, selfishness and self-centeredness in order to succeed.

  47. @Michael Pajak — You say: “Distributism may be the most difficult to achieve because it requires that all participants be pure of heart and intention, generous of spirit and possession, free of greed and corruption.”

    If you seriously believe this, then maybe you should take another look at Distributism. The central tenet of Distributism is *distributing power*. This is a Very Good Idea simply because the concentration of power is THE major wellspring of injustice, exploitation and violence in our world. No doctrine, decree or dogma needed to see that. In any case, Distributism should, in NO way, require perfection of its practitioners. Quite the contrary, the checks and balances inherent in true distribution of power should encourage more people to “play nice” and would provide a framework for hard-working, responsible people to cooperate for mutual benefit. Distributism isn’t just some interesting intellectual exercise. It provides a practical blueprint for everyday, flawed human beings of ANY FAITH (or no faith) to achieve a more just and bountiful social and economic structure. If I thought that the reconfiguration of society was going to depend on divine intervention or on a sudden, miraculous enlightenment of the entire population, I’d be playing Scrabble instead.

  48. “By contrast, socialism, capitalism, and all the various and sundry -isms/schisms practically require that there exist a measure of greed, corruption, power mongering, selfishness and self-centeredness in order to succeed.”

    What do you mean “succeed”? If you mean function as a proper economic system, all those things you mention fail miserably, because greed runs rampant and unchecked. Contrary to your assertion, the theories behind the functioning of capitalism and socialism do not take into account the reality of man, but only one part, in both cases making man into a god.

  49. While you are very much correct about the ethical requirements of distributism Pat, it is important not to overstress the ‘anti-unaccountable power’ line. It is true this can be a problem, and true that distributism is good at dealing with such cases, but the attacks on unaccountable power can be taken to an extreme which undermines any sort of government, sovereignty and authority. Historically it was (classical) liberalism which was one of the most important modern origins for the view that power always has to be strenously checked and balanced. Previous to that the two major schools of thought of Christendom, the Patristic-Platonic and the Scholastic tradition(particularly the earlier Scholastics.) had stressed the importance of a powerful monarchy. Gregory the Great for instance had even gone so far to erect a shrine to the Caesars, including the Byzantine Emperors, in the Vatican I believe(from memory.). That doesn’t mean distributism must be monarchist(though whether the traditional Christian should hold Sacred monarchy as the ideal is a different topic.), simply that need to make sure we don’t view power and sovereignty through a lens more appropriate to (classical) liberals than Christianity.

  50. I handed out numerous flyers today (in their original form) at the Norfolk, VA location of OWS. Those present were generally very receptive to the ideas and asked questions. It was a very good conversation. I also suggested they read not only this website Professor Médaille’s latest book as well, which I brought along, to get some ideas about practical applications that they could work for.