Sunday, March 31, 2019

In Defense of Distributism

From Complete Christianity:
Some of the worst critics of Distributism are Catholics, and by that I mean Catholics who give a free pass to the Laissez-faire mindset of the Austrian school of economics. Among Catholics, especially Traditional Catholics, there are two schools of thought. The first is distributist. This is by far the oldest and the one most commonly supported by the social encyclicals of the popes during the 19th and 20th century. To be clear, the popes never put a stamp of approval on any economic system, but anyone who studies their encyclicals can clearly see that distributism is the system that attempts to most comply with papal teaching. The other school of thought among Traditional Catholics is the Austrian school of economics, which has the most money and backing promoting it. This is more of a modern capitalism approach, based on as little government intervention in the marketplace as possible, allowing big corporations to set the rules. The purpose of this essay is not to engage in a debate. I’ve tried to debate Catholics on this and I’ve found it to be a dead-end street. I can no more persuade them, than they can persuade me. Rather, in this essay, I’m going to engage in a clarification, which I hope will at least open non-distributist Catholics to the idea that distributism is not a monolith, not all distributists are the same, and that distributism does not always fit the stereotypes its detractors typically pin to it. 
The first thing we need to understand is that there are two forms of distributism. There’s classical distributism (or paleo-distributism) which was the idealized version of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. It was highly centered on the agrarian model which was much more common in the Chester-Belloc time period. The idea of “three acres and a cow” is often used to describe this romanticized version of how distributism might play out in an ideal agrarian society. It’s been a century since that version of distributism first made its public appearance, and while ideal, it wasn’t even practical back then, let alone today. Then there is contemporary distributism (or neo-distributism), or what I just like to call “practical distributism,” which is how distributist ideals play out in the real world, with real examples, and a real history to prove it works. That’s the kind of distributist I am. I’m a practical distributist. (Read more.)

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