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The Mistake About Distributism

The Mistake About Distributism

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Published by The_Distributist
Speech given by Richard Aleman at the 29th Annual American Chesterton Society conference.
Speech given by Richard Aleman at the 29th Annual American Chesterton Society conference.

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Published by: The_Distributist on Oct 18, 2010
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10/18/2010

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The Mistake about Distributism
My name is Richard Aleman and I am, along with my esteemed colleague John Médaille, theeditor for an online magazine called
The Distributist Review 
.
Our site is dedicated to analysis of contemporary politics, economics, and culture from a Distributist lens
.
We also include vintagearticles from the early movement: G
.K.
Chesterton, Belloc, and Fr
.
Vincent McNabb, amongmany others
.
 Dear Friends in Christ,The title of my talk today is The Mistake About Distributism
.
 What I would like to do is cover two areas in particular
.
 1
.
 
S
ome popular misconceptions about what Distributism is and isnt
.
 2
.
 
I want to give all of you a brief about the state of Distributism today, where we are, andmost importantly Id like to talk about action and the future of this movement
.
 Now I dont want to bore you with a
long
 
introduction to Distributism
.
Instead, I am going tobore you with a
sh
o
rt 
introduction to Distributism
.
As doctors
a
nd 
 
executioners say, I will makethis as painless and as quickly as possible
.
 
F
ounding
Distributism was founded by writers G
.K.
Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in response to theCatholic social encyclical
Rerum N
o
varum
(
trans: Of New Things
)
, which was issued in 1891
.
 This encyclical outlined the primary rights and responsibilities of capital, labor, government,and citizens in the wake of industrialization, which had created social upheaval and disorder
.
Italso attempted to protect the working classes from the misery and wretchedness pressing sounjustly on the majority of the working classes
.
 
(
RR, no
.3)
 Recognizing the characteristic tension that existed between the separation of ownership fromlabor, three universal principles from
Rerum N
o
varum
stood out in the minds of theDistributists:1
.
That the
S
tate should rule with justicedistributive justice, towards the nation as a wholeand regardless of class
.
 
 Am
ong
the ma
ny 
a
nd 
 
g
rave
uties
of 
ru
ers wh
o
o
u
ld 
 
do
their best 
 fo
r the pe
o
 p
e, the
 f 
irst a
nd 
 chie
 f 
is t 
o
act with strict justice  with that justice which is ca
ll 
e
 
istributive  t 
o
war 
each a
nd 
 ever 
c
ass a
ike.
 
(
Ibid, no
.33)
 In other words, the Distributists were concerned about the distribution of wealth, goods andservices, the means of production and who controlled them, and how this impacted and
 
conditioned the foundations upon which society is built, particularly in the wake of theindustrial revolution
.
 2
.
In order to transcend the contemporary problems inherent in economic Liberalism, the gapin wealth, and the separation of ownership and work, the best foundation of a nation is onebuilt upon an ownership society
.
 
I
 f 
o
rki 
ng
pe
o
 p
e ca
n
be e
n
c
o
ura
g
e
o
 
loo
 fo
rwar 
o
 
o
btai 
n
ng
a share i 
n
the
a
nd 
 , thec
on
seque
n
ce wi 
ll 
be that the
g
u
lf 
betwee
n
vast wea
th a
nd 
sheer p
o
vert 
wi 
ll 
be bri 
dg
e
 
o
ver,a
nd 
the respective c
asses wi 
ll 
be br 
o
u
g
ht 
n
earer t 
o
 
on
e a
no
therMe
n
a
wa
s w 
o
rk har 
er a
nd 
 m
o
re rea
ly 
whe
n
the
o
rk 
on
that which be
long
s t 
o
them.
(
Ibid, no
.47)
 Chesterton understood the importance of labor, the personal aspect of work, which is intrinsicto man
.
To illustrate the difference between title ownership and employment, Chesterton oftenquoted the story of the Good
S
hepherd: And the hireling fleeth, because he is the hireling: andhe hath no care for the sheep
.
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know me
.
 
(
The G
o
spe
Acc
o
ng
o
St. J
o
h
n
10:1
3-
1
4).
 How can private initiative be geared to achieve the goals necessary for widespread ownership?The last of the three primary principles Distributists inherited from the good Pope Leo held theanswer
.
We return once more to
Rerum N
o
varum
:
The
aw, there
 fo
re, sh
o
u
ld 
 
 f 
av 
o
o
n
ership, a
nd 
its p
ol 
ic
sh
o
u
ld 
be t 
o
nd 
uce as ma
ny 
as p
o
ssib
e
of 
the pe
o
 p
e t 
o
bec
o
me
o
n
ers.
 
(
no
.46)
 Chesterton and Belloc understood that, along with private initiative, the proper legalframework was needed to overhaul the present system and favor ownership for the family
.
 Distributism finds its roots in the social and economic theories articulated in the documents of the Churchs social teaching, beginning with Pope Leo XIIIs
Rerum N
o
varum
.
These socialencyclicals raise imperatives on economic transaction and its relation to capital and labor,solidarity, wages, the wide diffusion of ownership, and the proper limits of technology
.
 Distributism is an economic system compliant with the principles of these documents, and iscentered on the widest possible ownership of property as the best guarantee of political andeconomic freedom
.
A family that owns its own land or its own tools can make its own way inthe world without being dependent on someone else for a job
.
Thus, Distributism seeks toextend property ownership; both for private and social use, as widely as possible, and end theconcentration of ownership by few capitalists or state officials; neither wage
-
slavery nor slaveryto the
S
tate
.
 To quote the late Archbishop
S
heen, History reveals that never has there been any tyranny,never has there been slavery, in a country where there has been a wide distribution of property
.
 
 
Ive called todays talk The Mistake about Distributism
because I want to address some of thecommon errors Ive come across over the years since my involvement in Distributism
.
 
S
ome of these I call mistakes, while others may be best described as fairytales
.
 
The Mistake about Distributism
y
 
Distributism is just a
no
ther 
 fo
rm
of 
Capita
ism.
 Ive been asked repeatedly to admit that Distributism is just another form of Capitalism, and soI have decided to give in if this makes other people happy
.
Distributism is just like Capitalism
except 
that we differ on the nature of man, the purpose of economic activity, usury, themaximization of token wealth, the role and the legitimate exercise of the
S
tate, the meaningand purpose of subsidiarity, the divorce of economics from the higher sciences, our ends, ourmeans, what money is, what wealth is, what free
market is, production and consumption,regulation, free trade, the natural and Divine law in the social and economic order, and yes,even what liberty means
.
 Yep, we are just a bunch of Capitalists
.
 
y
 
Distributism is just a
no
ther 
 fo
rm
of 
S
o
cia
ism
 Take what Ive said, make a few changes and just add: OBAMA
.
 
y
 
Distributists are a
g
ai 
n
st emp
loy 
me
n
t.
 Chesterton had a profound respect for the worker as do we
.
Man is not simply an individual buthe is social in nature and, for the benefit of the common good, he should organize in order toprotect vital common interests
.
 Most Distributists admire the work of economist Fr
.
Heinrich Pesch and the solidarity system of human work
.
In fact, we view solidarity not as foreign to Distributism, but rathercomplimentary
.
Distributism does not view the hiring of labor by capital as intrinsically immoralnor as something to be eradicated by the Distributive
S
tate
.
Rather, Chesterton himself, andDistributists today, hold that capital and labor ought to be harmonized
.
However, in order forthis to happen I would like to raise certain conditions:1
.
 
Workers cannot be seen as a factor or cost, but rather as essential partners in theproduction process
.
 2
.
 
Workers must be given a living wage and a just contract
.
 
3.
 
A good society is one where, for the sake of the individual and the common good, theworker has a
ch
o
ice
whether to own or seek employment
.
 Chesterton said it perfectly:

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