Some Of My Favorite Things

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Is What Winning Looks Like

The infant mortality rate is calculated by dividing the number of infants who die within one year of birth by the number of infants who are born. The infant mortality rate is usually expressed as the ratio of infant deaths per one thousand live births.  
Prior to 1900, infant mortality rates of two and three hundred obtained throughout the world. The infant mortality rate would fluctute sharply according to the weather, the harvest, war, and epidemic disease. In severe times, a majority of infants would die within one year. In good times, perhaps two hundred per thousand would die. So great was the pre-modern loss of children's lives that anthropologists claim to have found groups that do not name children until they have survived a year. (emphasis added)
There is no reason to doubt the figures PBS provides aboveThere is reason to doubt the figure below:
The infant mortality rate started a long slide from 165 per 1,000 in 1900 to 7 per 1,000 in 1997.
In fact, this figure of 7 infant deaths per 1000 live births is a complete lie, a total fabrication. 

While it is the case that infant mortality began a long slide in this country from 165 per thousand in 1900, the legalization of abortion in the 1960's, and the nationwide legalization of in utero child murder in 1973, reversed that slide.

If we count abortion for what it is - infant mortality via infanticide - then the CDC shows us that our present infant mortality rate is identical to the rates seen before 1900.
The national legal induced abortion ratio increased from 196 per 1,000 live births in 1973 (the first year that 52 areas reported) to 358 per 1,000 live births in 1979 and remained nearly stable through 1981....  The ratio peaked at 364 per 1,000 live births in 1984 and since then has shown a nearly steady decline. In 2000, the abortion ratio was 245 per 1,000 live births in 49 reporting areas and 246 for the same 48 reporting areas available for 1999. This represents a 3.8% decrease from 1999 (256 per 1,000 live births) for the 48 reporting areas.
The pre-1900's rate of infant mortality was due to poor understanding of medical issues and relatively poor economic conditions. 

To what can we attribute our current high rate of infant mortality?

Well, we could blame the economy. 

It is true that the US economy underwent enormous inflation between 1965 and 1981, which might explain the high rates of infant mortality during that period.  It is certainly the case that the black community, which routinely kills the majority of its infants each year, is among the poorest in the nation. 

But blaming the economy seems somewhat disingenuous. After all, even the poorest country in the world today is richer than the richest country was in 1810. Even the poorest people in America are vastly better off than 90% of the rest of the world. It's hard to say that poverty is the reason, because essentially no one in the world is poor, at least not when compared to 1810.  

We can make a very cogent argument that the Church's call to care for the poorest of the poor has not only been answered, but essentially completed. We won.

In terms of physical wealth and health, no one is as poor today as even the richest person was when Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. The social justice people can sit down and enjoy their triumph. Everyone is wealthy, just as they say Leo XIII asked. 

No, it isn't the economy that is causing the high infant mortality rate. 

Rather, we seem to accept a high infant mortality rate today precisely because we are physically rich. We have the means to keep infants alive, we just choose not to use them. No matter where you go in the world, women's fertility is being systematically destroyed.  The number of children born to women each year is steadily dropping as the world's inhabitants becomes steadily wealthier. 

On average, the world over, the more money we have, the fewer children we have.

For most of human history, infant mortality has stood at around 300 per 1000. For a short century, between about 1880 and 1960, certain Western countries managed to get that rate down to just a dozen or so per 1000. 

We managed to become rich in children just as we were becoming rich in physical comfort. But, we didn't like having so many children around.

So, those same Western countries deliberately cranked infant mortality back up to where it has always historically been. No other country has ever managed to drop infant mortality to the exceedingly low rates the West has experienced, nor will they ever again. 

Why won't they? 

Because they'll abort their children out of existence as they become rich. The West has shown that it is acceptable to do that.

We won the war against physical poverty.
But, as the Fathers and Doctors of the Church liked to point out, physical poverty is nothing compared to spiritual poverty, the poverty of not knowing or living the Gospel.

We are indisputably physically wealthy.
Anyone who tells you different is either ignorant or deliberately lying.

But infant mortality is no different now than it was 1000 years ago, because the just distribution of physical riches was never really the problem.

The world over, there is a direct correlation between increased infanticide and "winning" social justice issues, that is, successfully redistributing physical wealth.

Someone might want to mention that to the bishops. 


Nick said...

I think you are wrong to say "We won" the poverty battle and answered Rerum Novarum. In 1991, Bl JPII issued Centisimus Annos, the 100th year anniversary of Rerum Novarum. In that Encyclical, JPII goes over how there are still serious economic problems going on, including the massive debts which poor countries are being crushed under.

That chart you linked to was pretty awesome, but I think it seriously skews the data by (a) listing things in averages or trends and (b) not having data for every year on various issues. When you look at "Income share of the richest 20%", the latest data is 2000 for USA, and it says the top-twenty percent own 46% of the wealth. On the flip side, the bottom-forty percent of Americans own 17% of the wealth. That's a clear economic imbalance.

To say "no one in the world is poor" (compared to 1800) is misleading and even dangerous. I think there is a wider gap between rich and poor than ever, and fewer owning property. Plus, there will always be a significant level of poverty, especially in areas where people are not living the Gospel, until Our Lord returns. For example, "Extreme Poverty" is very real according to The Chart, indicating about 1 billion people live on less than $2 per day (in 2004, not enough data collected after that).

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Well, of COURSE there's a much bigger gap between rich and poor now than there was in 1800. Look at the video again - EVERYONE was poor in 1800. There were no gaps at all between rich and poor.

To say that some people got EXTREMELY wealthy while others only got moderately wealthy - sure. No argument.

But NO COUNTRY today is living as poorly as ALL COUNTRIES lived in 1810. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Empty Set.

The king of England, the richest country on earth, lived a shorter life with (by modern standards) essentially no material comforts available and essentially no medical care.

If you want to study the data more closely, look here.

As it turns out, in order to take care of the poor, we had to make some people VERY wealthy. Ok. If that's what it takes, I'm not going to envy them their wealth. Their wealth pays for my medical care, my computer, my internet, my car...

Everything I own today I can only afford because so many really rich people bought the early, crappy versions that the price of production dropped enough for me to be able to afford the superior, and much cheaper product I buy today.

They paid to be guinea pigs, God bless 'em.

And even people in EXTREME poverty have things available that no one had available in 1800: medicine, fresher food, cleaner water.

That's why EVERYONE'S life expectancy today is BETTER than ANYONE'S life expectancy in 1800.

There will always be work to do. But to pretend that poverty today is anything like the problem a century ago is simply ridiculous.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Look, Nick, let's try this another way.

Economists tell me that the purchasing power of my dollar is much less today than it was 30 years ago.

I have no idea what that means.

Sure, I can't buy gas for a buck a gallon or hamburger for a buck a pound, I'll grant you that.

But I have a supercomputer (by 1980 standards) sitting on my desk, I had my gallbladder out through laparoscopic surgery (impossible in 1980), I have a 2003 Honda Odyssey in the driveway (couldn't buy THAT in 1980) and a cell phone in my pocket (couldn't buy THAT in 1980).

So, yeah, maybe my salary buys less now than it did in 1980. But like I said, I have no idea what that means.

Yes, a lot of people live on not very much money each day - a couple of bucks a day. But they're STILL better off today than they were in 1940 or 1900 or, God forbid, 1810.

Nick said...

Hi Steve,

It's misleading to say everyone was poor and that there was no gap in 1800. There has always been a wealthy class, middle class, and lower class in every nation throughout history. The only thing that has changed is the size and gap of each. That's the problem with The Chart you're looking at, because it generalizes/averages the true distributions.

Even looking at the country as a whole and comparing country to country is still fallacious, for if a country inherits a Bill Gates, then the country can seem to have suddenly gotten very wealthy and if another country gets a Ted Turner, then it can also seem to have gotten wealthy. The problem is obvious though, a Bill Gates and Ted Turner don't represent the average guy, who very could be working for the same wages the entire time. That's where it's important to look at nations like China and India, who rose on the wealth scale as nations but still have huge populations impoverished. The super rich in China are the upper classes who own the factories.

Further, looking at 1800 is misleading, since Rerum Novarum wasn't issued until 1891, when the Industrial Revolution was firmly established and things like sweat shops were on the rise. If you are seeking to have the same mind as the Church here, you will realize every Pope after Leo XIII upheld Rerum Novarum in their reign. That's pretty odd if RN was addressed and it's demands met. When you say you have no idea what it means when economists talk about your purchasing power, I agree such notions can be misleading. But that's my point as well with you approaching various statistics and coming to some of your conclusions. There is no good way nor was there that good of data available to categorize wealth then versus wealth now.

I think it is very dangerous and misleading for you to compare the medicine, fresher food and cleaner water for those in Extreme poverty today versus that in 1800, for Extreme poverty today certainly includes lack of access to medicine, food, and clean water. In terms of world population, there were about 1 Billion people in the world in 1800; today there are about 1 Billion people living in Extreme Poverty. That fact alone reveals the problem with claiming nobody is poor. To say they're "still better off today" is like parading around that wages increasing from 1 cent to 2 cents per day is a glorious 100% wage increase and thus "still better off," when we can easily see the fallacy there that will not excuse anyone when they stand before the Judgment Seat.

As for life expectancy, again you're looking at averages. Sure life expectancy rose in terms of averages, but as a general rule those who are more well off will be healthier and thus live longer, so there were always folks living into their 70s. And as you noted, one thing that sunk averages was the infant mortality rate being taken into account, where as this isn't happening with abortion data. In war and poverty areas, life expectancy is still depressingly grim.

While in some sense it is good that you can afford a computer and car and cell and surgery - the Church isn't against innovation - you have to also realize a lot of those things are "bought" on debt and made on sweatshop labor. So we're living high on the hog for more of the wrong reasons than the right ones. We're just lucky enough to be born here rather than there.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I understand that you were educated in an essentially Marxist college environment. You probably have no grasp of math, and you don't know how hard it is to move an average with a billion people in it.

It would take a book to list all the things people have available today that they did not have in 1891. Even if I don't own a jet, I profit from those who do, because they allow me to buy Argentine tomatoes in the winter. Same for every obscenely wealthy person who runs a business. God bless 'em for bringing me cheap things.

And the people who work for them do so because it beats starving. $1 per day may seem unjustly low to you but that's because you don't live where they do - they find it a worthwhile wage. And even though they work harder than either of us can imagine, they are able to eat because of it.

The point is, the world is undeniably wealthier today than it was a century ago, the percentage of poor in the world is undeniably smaller.

But the richer we all get, the more we kill our children. Poor countries have the highest fertility rates, rich countries have the lowest (the US is an exception).

As we continue to succeed in equitably spreading the physical wealth, the noveau rich will increasingly kill their own children.

That is the lesson of the last 150 years. Equitable distribution of wealth engenders infanticide. For rich people, children are more trouble than we wish to put up with.

So, be careful what you wish for. If you wish for everyone to be rich, you are simultaneously wishing for everyone to be child-less.

Nick said...

Hello Steve,

If we're both doing our best to be good Catholics, then this shouldn't spiral into insults. We can have good and even heated discussion, and still not degrade each other.

I agree that there are many good technological advancements that didn't exist even 50 years ago. But one should avoid the idea that progress is automatically good and justified since it (eventually) helps everyone. As you know, the end does not justify the means, and not all technology has helped mankind.

In the case of Argentine tomatoes, one must look at more than just the cheapness and convenience of a product. For example *IF* a product is made from exploited labor, then it being cheap and available isn't a good excuse for us to be excited. So it is dangerous to give out a blanket "God bless them for bringing me cheap things," since it could be the case this is brought to us using sinful means.

Also, I am not suggesting that what we might consider a low wage is in fact a low wage in a given location. But there is such thing as an unjustly low wage in every region and circumstance, and at that point it becomes exploitation. If extreme poverty is labeled as living with less than $2 a day, then I figure there must be basic needs that cannot be met for that much most places in the world. It is not enough to say it beats starving, since nobody should be exploited just to beat starving, if in fact they're able to beat starving at all with their wages.

You said:
"The point is, the world is undeniably wealthier today than it was a century ago, the percentage of poor in the world is undeniably smaller."

It all depends on how you're defining "wealth" and "poor". For example, how much of our modern wealth is based upon debts that cannot be repaid? And I'd argue that 1 Billion people in extreme poverty today is heart wrenching and not to be excused based off of what percentage were in those conditions in 1800.

Nick said...

There is some sense in which the richer we get the more abortions there are, BUT is this the result of families being too rich or the result of an economic gap? An abortion can happen for various reasons, such as body figure, career, or financially afford to care for the child. Wrapped up in those three reasons are, I believe, a perverted understanding of working, particularly women in the workforce. Women are now more valued for how much they can earn rather than how good of a mother they can be. This not only has the effect of distracting women from their true purpose, it serves to drive down the wages of men, resulting in the need for a two-income household. If that kind of pressure is on a woman, then she has no time to be a mother. So it very well could be that the threat of poverty for not working full time is driving the abortion rather than a lavish lifestyle that would rather relax all day at the pool than bother with a child.

You said:
"That is the lesson of the last 150 years. Equitable distribution of wealth engenders infanticide."

I would strongly disagree with using the terminology of "distribution". When understood from a Catholic Social Teaching point of view, a just distribution (not necessarily equal distribution) engenders financial independence, which engenders a family environment, and thus engenders more children. There has never been an equitable distribution of wealth in our modern economies. On the contrary, the gap only continues to grow as the middle class disappears. The middle class might have more "spending power" than previous generations, but that's not synonymous with equitable *distribution*. If I give you a credit card for $10,000 then you have more "spending power," but going into $10,000 of debt says nothing about the gap between rich and poor.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I wasn't insulting you, I was just stating the facts. Your remarks show no coherent understanding of math, technology, capitalism or history.

You complain that sinful means "might" have been used in bringing me cheap goods. Sure, and the redistribution of wealth might be sinful too. Do you have a point?

Let's deal in facts, not hypotheticals.

As for the rest of your comments, they are just nonsensical. Study the data - take a few hours to run through the graphs at Pay close attention to the fertility and birth charts.

You haven't done your homework.

Nick said...

Could you give a few examples where my comments showed "no coherent understanding of math, technology, capitalism or history"?

Also, when I said sinful means "might" have been used in making cheap goods, I meant sinful means often are used, just not always. For example, sweatshops are by definition designed to exploit the worker - unless you believe there is no such thing as exploitation (I've met Catholics who believe that, not sure if you do).

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Sure, Nick.

You yourself say that the world's population in 1891 was about 1 billion. You also say about 1 billion people are in poverty today.

Think about that.
The world population today is 6 billion. That means in the last 150 years 5 BILLION PEOPLE, all born with NOTHING, were raised to levels of wealth heights several times HIGHER than the entire WORLD'S population in 1891.

In less than 150 years, we made the 1891 equivalent of FIVE ENTIRE PLANETS much more wealthy than anyone alive in 1891.

At the same time, even if we grant the idea that the remaining 1 billion is as poor as the entire world's population was in 1891 (which is absurd, but let's grant it for the sake of argument), we still raised the average age of death for THEM from 40 years to 45 years - a 12% increase for 1 BILLION people.

Do you have any idea how stupendous it is to accomplish just the 12% increase in average life expectancy for 1 BILLION people in the space of 150 years?

Nothing even close was ever accomplished in all of previous human history.

And then throw in another 5 Billion people who are raised from nothing to wealthy beyond anyone's wildest dreams?

To continue to argue that this is somehow still a sign of vast world poverty barely qualifies as ignorant - it really verges on stupid.

Besides which, the ultimate point of the article is that this social justice success is driving the abortion culture - a fact which is EQUALLY incontrovertible, but which you don't even address because you're still hung up on the whole social justice crap.

Nick said...

Hello Steve,

I might be misunderstanding you here. I'm under the impression that you're saying that there isn't much social justice work to be done today because modern day "poverty" isn't really that serious. Is that correct? *IF* that is what you're saying, then that means all the Popes and virtually all Bishops of the last 100 years have been living under a rock and misinforming us by telling us there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of suffering due to various injustices.

I am not denying that technology and other developments have played a front and center role in the population boom over the last 150 years. It is a mathematical miracle in every sense of the word.

My second question is, are you saying abortion is increasing because people have a lot more spending money and free time and are just too greedy to sacrifice this luxurious life to raise a child?

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Are you telling me that papal infallibility applies to economics?

If so, explain something. Economics has been around as long as money and barter have been around. Why is it we don't see Rerum Novarum until 1891?

As for both abortion and lowered fertility rates, I'm saying the FACTS demonstrate a correlation between increased wealth and lower fertility.

The industrial revolution correlates to the first known instances of both widespread wealth creation and demographic transition.

Popes started getting concerned about "social justice" at exactly the same time the infant mortality rate was dropping.

Fast forward a century.

We currently have the same infant mortality rate we had prior to the industrial revolution, but pretty much everyone is much, much richer.

Wealth is widespread, but the infant mortality rate in wealthy nations is *IDENTICAL* to that of a completely impoverished nation - worse than that in any "impoverished" nation that outlaws abortion today, in fact.

alphatronshinyskullus said...

I think you're pretty much right on. Something that we also take for granted is dental care. All you could do in 1800 was pull teeth and make crappy dentures. Now, teeth can be preserved. My wife and I have been house hunting because we need more room for our eight kids. Looking at houses built in 1900 and houses built today reveals a huge difference in room size. Today, we have much larger rooms in homes because we need that room for all of the stuff we have. In 1900, people didn't have televisions, computers, large amounts of clothing, lots of shoes, toys, etc. Now we need larger rooms for all of our stuff.

Nick said...

Hello Steve,

Papal infallibility applies to any field which carries a moral dimension, which is virtually any field where man's voluntary actions are involved. This includes economics, and the Church has been clear on this point. Just as the Church isn't here to tell us how to run our family, it none the less can and does set up certain guidelines for how it must be done. The same goes for economics. As I understand it, Rerum Novarum was written to address the new type of economics that arose within the Industrial Revolution, modern banking, and modern philosophical views of man. Before that, the Church had spoken on various issues relating to economics, such as the immorality of charging interest. The foundation of what is in Rerum Novarum is found in the Scholastics.

As for my questions:
(1) I didn't see how you addressed whether or not modern day poverty is a serious issue or not. Is modern poverty a serious problem?

(2) I agree that it is a fact that increased wealth has corresponded to lower fertility, but my question goes one step beyond that, namely why wealth would cause this. Is it because the modern family has so much money that they would prefer to lounge around all day rather than be bothered with a child? Or is it because the modern husband and wife are working all day and don't have time for a child?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Papal infallibility does not extend to economics.

Economics, like biology, chemistry, physics, is a science that describes what happens and makes predictions about what will happen under different circumstances.

Just because a papal encyclical describes the morality of various situations, it does not follow that such situations actually occur anywhere.

1) Obviously, modern day poverty is nowhere near the issue it was when Rerum Novarum was written. Whether or not it is "serious" depends entirely on how you define "serious." That's a prudential judgement, not a moral judgement, and therefore not subject to infallibility.

2) The reason's for the demographic transition are not entirely clear. However, it probably has a lot to do with Baumol's cost disease and the transition from an individual, virtue-based culture that centered on honor to a corporate utilitarian-based culture that centers on income.

For the millennia that the entire world was poor, essentially every society was honor-based, shame-based.

For the last 150 years, as the world has grown staggeringly rich, society has become outcome-based, consequentialist.

The Church no longer needs to outlaw duelling, as it did for centuries, because that is an honor-based activity. Now it fights abortion, because that's a consequentialist activity.

Modern women choose abortion not to preserve their honor, but to preserve their future earning potential.

They aren't ashamed of having a child, rather, they "can't afford to have a child." That's the language used.

alphatronshinyskullus said...

It's undeniable that we have become extremely wealthy, and our society is in denial about it. Nearly all of my co-workers live on two incomes that together amount to over $100,000 a year. Some of them likely pull down close to double that amount. They have two children, and complain about the cost of living. My household has one income, mine. My wife stays at home, and we have eight children we have been homeschooling. My children want for nothing. Of course, they think they do because they don't get a lot of useless junk and we actually have to cook our food from scratch using recipes. But we have SEVEN computers in our house. Netflix gives us programming on demand. We have two vehicles running at any time. I am working on my master's. One of my son's got appendicitis last year, and it cost us a hundred bucks out of pocket for something that would have been a death sentence a hundred years ago. Yet my co-workers express amazement that we are able to get by on one income. For most of our marriage, we have lived below the federal poverty level, but never needed government assistance to make ends meet. We simply made adjustments to our lifestyle periodically. How can I support nine people on my income with no real difficulty, but co-workers complain about supporting four on two incomes similar to mine? It's not that we can't afford children. It's that we have become selfish and want our convenience and leisure.

Andrew said...


I'm curious what your thoughts are on distributism as advocated by G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and others.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

I tend to agree with Fr. Stanley Jaki, "Distributism assumes men are angels."

He did not think this a safe assumption to make. Given his background, I tend to trust his experience.

Andrew said...

So what do you make of the middle ages? Were men angels under feudalism? Or are Chesterton and Belloc wrong that feudal society was a distributist society?

I think a Catholic has to have serious problems with one of the underlying assumptions of "free market capitalism" which is that the combined effect effect of everyone's greed is somehow transmuted into charity.

I'd strongly recommend Belloc's work The Servile State to you and anyone else. I think his argument that capitalism and socialism are are really two sides of the same coin is dead on. Both are really unstable and transitory systems. Man can either take the hard path and put in the work to return to a society based upon Catholic principles, or he can take the easier road and descend into a neo-pagan servile state. I think it's quite clear what our culture's current trajectory is.

Flambeaux said...

Chesterton and Belloc were, quite simply, wrong. They were semi-competent journalists. Both could turn a phrase. But they were not historians, they played fast and loose with facts, selectively picked their facts, and didn't understand one iota of economics.

They were, and remain, out of their depth. Lots of romantic wishful thinking...precious little rooted in reality or historical fact.

Distributists generally don't want to hear this. But that's the truth.

Flambeaux said...

Andrew, it's a sad caricature of "free market capitalism" to suggest that "everyone's greed is somehow transmuted into charity".

I've never read any serious economist, of any era or any stripe, who asserted such. I have, however, read a lot of claptrap from "Distributists" who assert as much. Not one of whom has even a rudimentary understanding of economics, finance, or, it would seem, capitalism.

The closest you get, anywhere, in the history of economics to such an idea are the related ideas of Private Vice resulting in Public Virtue and the idea that a profit seeking person or group will endeavor to provide the highest quality of product to the largest number of persons and this will result in a better quality of life.

Neither of these ideas, judged on their own merits, is in conflict with the tenets of the Catholic Faith nor does either assert that "everyone's greed is somehow transformed into charity".

If you would seriously like to know more, I recall Sandra Miesel had some essays published many years ago, possibly still on the Internet somewhere, debunking the lousy historical work of Chesterton & Belloc.

And if you really want to learn economics and understand how real economic knowledge fits in with the Catholic Faith, there are plenty of resources for that, too.

The Acton Institute has done yeoman's work. As has the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Tom Woods has done lots of heavy lifting in his book The Church and The Market.

And those three sources are just the tip of the iceberg.

Good luck on your voyage of discovery.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I agree with Flambeaux about Belloc and Chesterton. I don't know why anyone thinks either one is an economist.

Now, that said, I likewise agree that capitalism, in raw form, is not at all kind towards families. It assumes everyone and everything is raw material.

But, all that having been said, we can't get around the fact that in the course of the last 150 years, capitalism has fed and clothed at least as many people as the Church has.

Capitalism may have no spiritual component, but it certainly does the "social justice" crap a lot better than our own modern bishops. And that, I think, is commentary on both capitalism and "social justice."

Andrew said...

Thank you for the suggested reading Flambeaux. I have looked into the Acton Institute a bit. From the little I have read it appears they get some stuff right, but also a good bit wrong. The same applies to Mr. Woods and the Von Mises Institute. If I recall, Mises was rabidly anti-Catholic, and while I found Mr. Paul to be the least objectionable GOP canidate, he and other libertarians get a great deal profoundly wrong.

Do you (and Steve) dispute the assertion that capitalism was founded upon the sacking of the monastaries and seizure of other Church property to be divied up among Protestant (i.e. heretical) nobles?

If not, that would seem to be a big strike against capitalism.

I've read more Belloc than Chesterton, but I've read enough of both to realize that yes, sometimes they do get things wrong. On the whole though I've found both to be very astute and well grounded in Catholic teaching. Which leads into my next point: one can't dismiss distributism by simply dismissing Belloc and Chesterton as amateurs. A robust criticism of "free market Capitalism" can be found in the magestrial writings of the Popes from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. Belloc and Chesterton weren't just pulling ideas out of the air, they were reading encyclicals and applying them to life (something all Catholics should do more of).

Steve can you elaborate on what you mean by "social justice" as "crap". I agree that most of what goes under the name is indeed...crap. But is there an authentic social justice without any quotation marks required? I think so.

Thanks again. I will look for those Sandra Miesel essays.

Andrew said...

Steve: "But, all that having been said, we can't get around the fact that in the course of the last 150 years, capitalism has fed and clothed at least as many people as the Church has."

But if in the process of clothing and feeding people, we erode their liberty and lead their souls into sin, what have we gained?


Steve Kellmeyer said...


I don't disagree with your point. The point of this essay is, if all we care about is social justice, then we won - everyone is richer. No one suffers from the kind of physical poverty that was the rule in 1810.

But, as I point out in the essay, we have deliberately begun killing children in order to return our infant mortality rate back to what it was in 1710.

This is what it looks like to "win" on the social justice front: Everyone is well-fed, and they kill their children to keep out any possible competition to their dinner.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


As for the assertion that capitalism was built on the sacking of monasteries... that's a new one on me.

Who is making that charge and how do they substantiate it?

The industrial revolution, which is the basis of capitalism's success, was nearly impossible to avoid.

Given that monasteries were the centers of scientific research in Europe for centuries, a strong case can be made that it was actually slowed down by the sacking of monasteries. Indeed, several historians have argued that if Henry VIII hadn't plundered the monasteries, he would have had access to Bessemer steel. The monks had figured out how to do it right before he killed them all.

Andrew said...

Greetings Steve,

One of the distinguishing features of Capitalism is....capitalists. Capitalists are men who own a very large proportion of the means of production and employ members of the proliteriat who are men who are free, but don't own the means of production.

If you look at the middle ages, there was a much smaller gap between the rich and the poor, as you have pointed out yourself above.

So how did the means of production become cocentrated largely (but not entirely) in the hands of so few people?

The seizure of Church property during the Protestant Revolt. Those nobles who went along with heresy in the name of enlargin their holdings became the original capitalists. Capitalism and Industiralism are two different thigns that are often confused. Most people thing the industrial revolution brought about capitalism, but capitalism actually preceded it.

This is a central element of Belloc's argument. As I said, I'm more familiar with his works, then other distributists writers, but I think you'll find the point made by a good many Catholic historians. What's taught in American schools as history is largely Protestant propaganda. Or at least it was, now it's pagan propoganda. This shouldn't be surprising since the US was a protestant country and is now a pagan country.

If you are judging Belloc based upon what other people have said, I'd strongly recommend reading him for yourself. "The Crisis of Civilization" would be a good place to start and give you a broad overview of his historical/economic/theological thought. My personal favorite is "Essays of Catholic" and I'd also recommend "Characters of the Reformation" highly.

Flambeaux: I couldn't find any Sandra Miesel essays on distributism, but did find this:

It doesn't raise my hopes of being convinced by her other arguments if it's indicative of her writings and thought.

She seems to lump Freemasons in the same category as the Fairy godmother. Are their "traditionalist" cooks out there? Oh yes, there certainly are, and Miesel nails many of them by name, but she seems to through the magestrium and history out with the bathwater.

Back to Belloc, Miesel calls his work "The Jews" a "distasteful book". The only thing that was distateful about it is that very few people listened to it. If they had, a great many people were murdered in the 1940s might be alive. I have to wonder if Miesel has read the book or not. As a growing fan of Belloc, I felt compelled to do so myself, after all if I'm quoting an anti-semite, I'd like to know it.

Belloc is no such thing. Actually, there's a whole chapter in the book devoted to condemning anti-semitism. The book is a plea for honesty, realism, and an appreciation for the common dignity of mankind. It's also a sad book, I think Belloc knew even as he wrote it that it would fall largely on deaf ears.

So Meisel like many others is blasting Belloc for alleged anti-semitism because he stuck his neck out against Political correctness and condemened anti-semitism. She's either misinformed or malicious. I don't know which one.

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

First, from an intellectual perspective, I readily agree that Miesel has quite a lot in common with a box of hammers. I have yet to read a single thing she's written which would persuade me otherwise.

While I've read a fair bit of Belloc and very much respect his writing, it's not clear to me that he is correct on this count.

For instance, if you want to talk about the taking of land, you can't miss the enclosure movement. You also can't miss that enclosure was practiced by monasteries as readily as by lords of manors. Even Thomas More remarked on that. So even if the Protestant Reformation had never happened, the English enclosure movement would have.

Furthermore, concentration of wealth is the norm of human history. Even in pagan Rome, the top 10% of the population owned most of the empire's wealth.

The only difference between the past and the present is this: we have SO MUCH MORE wealth today.

Much as I like Belloc, I think his explanation is more a "just so" story than anything.

Andrew said...

Your comment on pagan Rome makes Belloc's point exactly.

Every pre-Christian society, including Pagan Rome was a society based on slavery, a servile state in Belloc's terminology.

Control of property was diffused as a consequence of the spread of the Catholic faith. The institution of slavery was also eliminated as a result of the same spread of the Gospel.

Belloc is not one who thinks all was hunky dory with the work prior to Luther nailing his thesis up. The Protestant Revolt happened for reasons. Like almost any heresy it was an overreaction and exploitation of real problems.

Capitalism and Socialism are both undoing the diffusion of property control which occured in a Catholic society and moving us back towards a slave society, just like Pagan Rome.

I also enjoy reading Thomas More, can you point me to a source for his comments on enclosure?

God bless and have a great day.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

One other comment after thinking on your last post a bit.

I don't dispute that concentration of the control of wealth in the hands of a small minority is the norm of human history. However, that does not mean that such a state is good or desirable.

Paganism is the norm of human history.

Infanticide is the norm of human history.

War is the norm of human history.

Slavery is the norm of human history.

A Catholic society should be radically different because it reflects Christ. The graces of the sacraments offer the ability to be radically different.

I think it's fairly obvious that the rise of capitalism has coincided with the severe eroding of the Catholicism in the western world. Of course, that two things happen over the same period of time does not automatically mean there is a cause and effect. In this case, I think the cause/effect relationship works both ways. A capitalistic economic structure undermines Catholic values, and people who are not living a Catholic life gravitate away an ownership society (distributism).

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The Popes have written two encyclicals condemning leftists, one condemning fascism, another condemning communism.

The Pope has not written any encyclical against capitalism. Indeed, Benedict XVI specifically said capitalism is acceptable.

There is ZERO indication that distributism is a "Catholic" economic system from a Magisterial viewpoint.

Near as I can tell, it's just an unworkable mess invented by two economically ignorant Catholics.

Andrew said...

What is unCatholic about distributism?

It's based on:

-private property
-the nuclear family
-protection of the weaker from the more powerful through intermediary bodies (guilds/unions)

All of which are strongly supported by the Magisterium.

Which statement of Benedict XVI are you referring to?

Pax Christi

Andrew said...


You said:

"I likewise agree that capitalism, in raw form, is not at all kind towards families. It assumes everyone and everything is raw material."

So if a system is not at all kind to families, how is it acceptable to Catholics?

Of course you said "raw" capitalism. So what is the difference between "raw" capitalism....and some other kind of capitalism? What is that other kind of capitalism called?

I think the name "distributism" simply bothers a lot of people because they don't like thinking of themselves as anti-capitalist. Most people have never heard of distributism so it sounds strange even before they know anything about it.

As Chesteron said, the problem with capitalism is that there are not enough capitalists. Distributism seeks to make a determinant portion of society into owners of the means of productions. In a certain sense it's capitalism for everyone.

Part of me wonders if Distributist would be better served from a marketing perspective by simply changing the name from distributism to "Catholic capitalism."

Maybe in some degree. But marketing gimicks can't achieve the type of societal changes needed to build a Catholic culture, so in the end, I don't think the name matters too much.

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And what is un-Catholic about communism? It's based on everyone sharing what they have, the strong helping the weak, directed towards the universal good of all.

Caritas in veritate
#38 What is needed, therefore, is a market that permits the free operation, in conditions of equal opportunity, of enterprises in pursuit of different institutional ends. Alongside profit-oriented private enterprise and the various types of public enterprise, there must be room for commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends to take root and express themselves. It is from their reciprocal encounter in the marketplace that one may expect hybrid forms of commercial behaviour to emerge, and hence an attentiveness to ways of civilizing the economy. [In short, subsidiarity HAS to apply to the economy. This is a rather resounding support for a lot of capitalists. But watch where he takes it.] Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself. [(emphasis added) There is nothing unjust about taking a profit.]

Steve Kellmeyer said...

You might also want to read this:

Andrew said...

The quote from Caritas in Veritate is as supportive of distributism as it is of capitalism. I've never read any distributist say that there is something wrong with profit.

Your contention that Popes have not critiqued capitalism in their encylicals is not accurate.

In Centesimus Annus, Bl. John Paul II expresses concern over "unbridled capitalism".

He goes on to say:

Many other people, while not completely marginalized, live in situations in which the struggle for a bare minimum is uppermost. These are situations in which the rules of the earliest period of capitalism still flourish in conditions of "ruthlessness" in no way inferior to the darkest moments of the first phase of industrialization. In other cases the land is still the central element in the economic process, but those who cultivate it are excluded from ownership and are reduced to a state of quasi-servitude.71 In these cases, it is still possible today, as in the days of Rerum novarum, to speak of inhuman exploitation. In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.


In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work.73 In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.


We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called "Real Socialism" leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization. It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development. This goal calls for programmed and responsible efforts on the part of the entire international community. Stronger nations must offer weaker ones opportunities for taking their place in international life, and the latter must learn how to use these opportunities by making the necessary efforts and sacrifices and by ensuring political and economic stability, the certainty of better prospects for the future, the improvement of workers' skills, and the training of competent business leaders who are conscious of their responsibilities

Andrew said...

It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.


The historical experience of the West, for its part, shows that even if the Marxist analysis and its foundation of alienation are false, nevertheless alienation — and the loss of the authentic meaning of life — is a reality in Western societies too. This happens in consumerism, when people are ensnared in a web of false and superficial gratifications rather than being helped to experience their personhood in an authentic and concrete way. Alienation is found also in work, when it is organized so as to ensure maximum returns and profits with no concern whether the worker, through his own labour, grows or diminishes as a person, either through increased sharing in a genuinely supportive community or through increased isolation in a maze of relationships marked by destructive competitiveness and estrangement, in which he is considered only a means and not an end.


42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

The answer is obviously complex. If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a "business economy", "market economy" or simply "free economy". But if by "capitalism" is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.


Andrew said...

43. The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another.84 For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation, a teaching which, as already mentioned, recognizes the positive value of the market and of enterprise, but which at the same time points out that these need to be oriented towards the common good. This teaching also recognizes the legitimacy of workers' efforts to obtain full respect for their dignity and to gain broader areas of participation in the life of industrial enterprises so that, while cooperating with others and under the direction of others, they can in a certain sense "work for themselves"85 through the exercise of their intelligence and freedom. Church teaching is a framework for developing economic models. That's exactly what distributists have tried to do.


Andrew said...


I will be happy to read the link you provided and comment after having done so.

I would ask you to read another from the Von Mises Institute.

In it you will find that Mises considers all religions man-made inventions, says the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ, and readily admits that his positions are in opposition to Magisterial teaching.

Libertarianism is a very tempting heresy, especially at times of government persecution. Like all heresies, it is based upon truth. Government which governs most (totalitarianism) is government which governs best. However, it does not logically follow that government that governs least governs best, and that is where libertarians go wrong.


Andrew said...

oops that should be government which governs most (totalitarianism) is government which governs WORST.

Apologies, need to remember to proof read before posting.


Andrew said...

Steve, the Thomas Woods article you linked to has a number of problems. To name a few:

He sets up strawmen to knock down by claiming distributism takes positions it simply does not take.

Distributism does NOT claim that it is always preferable for a man to run his own business.

Distributism does NOT claim that profit is bad.

If Woods believes those are distributists positions, then he is very poorly informed on the topic.

His hypothetical on how distributism would have faired in industrial England, is of course a very difficult question to answer since the situation was created in very large part because of capitalism.

Ultimately Woods takes the stance:'s better than starvation.

While starvation is undoubtedly not good, that's a pretty low standard. His take that factory workers should have been happy with capitalism because they weren't starving could just as easily be applied to slaves throughout history.

As I said, distributism is not antagonistic to profits. However, Woods errs when he advocates always seeking MAXIMUM profits. This directly contradicts numerous Church teachings. A Just Wage allows a man to provide for himself, his wife, his children, and to save a bit for the future. If a businessman pays him less (in order to maximize his profits) then he is commiting an injustice.

If maximizing profits is the maximum good, then putting old people and handicapped babies out of their misery so there are less unproductive mouths to feed makes perfect sense.

Woods choice of Bill Gates as a poster boy for the humanitarian benefits of capitalism is an illustrative but very poor one. Gates is a very strong advocate of immoral population control. Can't have the proliteriat breeding too much, because it puts strain on the instabilities of capitalism.

Finally, Woods comments that "more recent encyclicals" are beginning to show some undestanding of economics seems to entail an implication that earlier encyclicals on the topic simply didn't know what they were talking about. As Centesimus Annus (which Woods seems to like at least somewhat) is based directly on Rerum Novarum, so much for dimissing earlier teachings. In any case, Centesimus Annus directly condemns Laissez-faire economics, which seems to be what Woods and the Von Mises institute are promoting.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

Here is some more to think upon in response to your comment that there has never been an encyclical against capitalism. From Quadragesimo Anno:

103. But, with the diffusion of modern industry throughout the whole world, the "capitalist" economic regime has spread everywhere to such a degree, particularly since the publication of Leo XIII's Encyclical, that it has invaded and pervaded the economic and social life of even those outside its orbit and is unquestionably impressing on it its advantages, disadvantages and vices, and, in a sense, is giving it its own shape and form.

104. Accordingly, when directing Our special attention to the changes which the capitalist economic system has undergone since Leo's time, We have in mind the good not only of those who dwell in regions given over to "capital" and industry, but of all mankind.

105. In the first place, it is obvious that not only is wealth concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few, who often are not owners but only the trustees and managing directors of invested funds which they administer according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure.

106. This dictatorship is being most forcibly exercised by those who, since they hold the money and completely control it, control credit also and rule the lending of money. Hence they regulate the flow, so to speak, of the life-blood whereby the entire economic system lives, and have so firmly in their grasp the soul, as it were, of economic life that no one can breathe against their will.

107. This concentration of power and might, the characteristic mark, as it were, of contemporary economic life, is the fruit that the unlimited freedom of struggle among competitors has of its own nature produced, and which lets only the strongest survive; and this is often the same as saying, those who fight the most violently, those who give least heed to their conscience.

108. This accumulation of might and of power generates in turn three kinds of conflict. First, there is the struggle for economic supremacy itself; then there is the bitter fight to gain supremacy over the State in order to use in economic struggles its resources and authority; finally there is conflict between States themselves, not only because countries employ their power and shape their policies to promote every economic advantage of their citizens, but also because they seek to decide political controversies that arise among nations through the use of their economic supremacy and strength.

109. The ultimate consequences of the individualist spirit in economic life are those which you yourselves, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, see and deplore: Free competition has destroyed itself; economic dictatorship has supplanted the free market; unbridled ambition for power has likewise succeeded greed for gain; all economic life has become tragically hard, inexorable, and cruel. To these are to be added the grave evils that have resulted from an intermingling and shameful confusion of the functions and duties of public authority with those of the economic sphere - such as, one of the worst, the virtual degradation of the majesty of the State, which although it ought to sit on high like a queen and supreme arbitress, free from all partiality and intent upon the one common good and justice, is become a slave, surrendered and delivered to the passions and greed of men. And as to international relations, two different streams have issued from the one fountain-head: On the one hand, economic nationalism or even economic imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country is where profit is.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

First - the fact that you can't find a clear condemnation of capitalism in Quadragesimo Anno demonstrates that QA doesn't condemn it. I don't know anyone who says QA is a condemnation of capitalism. Do you?

Second - it's not clear that Quadragesimo Anno has a decent analysis of economic problems. For instance, you could substitute "monarchy" into the analysis you quote and make exactly the same charges about monarchical economies.

Third - I'm not sure Woods is wrong to imply that earlier encyclicals didn't show a strong grasp of economics.

There's no reason to think the Church in general or any encyclical in particular is going to get a discussion on economics right.

So what's wrong with Woods implicitly or explicitly saying the Church has no friggin' idea what it's talking about in this regard?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Look, the major difference between 1690, 1890 and 2012 is NOT in the concentration of wealth.

Wealth has ALWAYS been highly concentrated. In 1690, it was concentrated in monastic orders, in 1890 it was concentrated in monarchical households, in 2012 it was concentrated in corporations.

The difference between those three years lies not in the facts, but in the fact that we became AWARE of the facts.

The irony is, by the time we became aware of the facts of who controls the wealth, the economy had managed to make EVERYONE wealthier than had been the case when no one spent a lot of time being concerned about the concentration of wealth.

Distributism cannot support 7 billion people. Anyone who knows the history of the Green Revolution knows that.

Andrew said...

Greetings Steve,

I'm confused by your association of distributism and "the green revolution." You made one of the same errors as Woods when you seem to assert that distributism is against profit. It's not.

Monarchy is not an economic system. It's a form of government. One could have a distributive monarchy, a capitalist monarchy, a communist monarchy. "Monarchy" in and of itself doesn't tell us what kind of economy a society has.

"Capitalism" is a word. Whether it is in accordance with Church teaching depends on how one uses it. Bl. John Paul II outlined two meanings of Capitalism and judged them:

42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

The answer is obviously complex. If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a "business economy", "market economy" or simply "free economy". But if by "capitalism" is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.

I think the reality of "capitalism" as observed in history and our present society is much more in line with the 2nd "capitalism" which he said is clearly not what we should be looking for.

Did you read the page I linked to from the Von Mises Institute? I'm curious what your thought are on the theological underpinnings of the Austrian school.

Neither Leo XIII or Pius XI or John Paul II was claiming to present a definitive economics handbooks. Rather their encyclicals speak to the relation between economics and faith and morals- precisely their area of authority. That's what wrong with saying the Church has no idea what's its talking about.

I did notice one question you asked earlier which I forgot to answer. You asked "What's unCatholic about Communism?" Well like Capitalism, it depends on how you are using the term. Soviet Communism was unCatholic beause it was forced, atheistic, contrary to the Gospel in a great many of its teachings.

But if by "Communism" one means life in a Catholic monastary, then it's not unCatholic at all. It's voluntary, devoted to God, and designed to follow the counsels of Our Lord.

As Leo XIII pointed out in Rerum Novarum, there is no "perfect system". Obviously some systems are better than others, but without a foundation of THE CATHOLIC FAITH any system will turn to tyranny.

You said distributism is an unworkable mess. At present any system is an unworkable mess to a very large degree, because we live in a relativistic pagan society.

Distributism sees the needs to build up a Catholic culture for there to be a just economic order.

Libertarian capitalists, as indicated by the Von Mises text I quoted, see religion at best as irrelevant to economics and at worst as an obstacle to a just economic order.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

Your choice of dates: 1690,1890,2012 is interesting. They all occur after the entrance of Capitalism into Western society.

Has there always been a disparity in wealth between the rich and poor? Of course there has, even before 1690. Capitalism does not create a disparity, it aggravates it.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

Finally, I'd question your assertion that "monarchy" can be substituted for "capitalism" in Quadragessimo Anno.

Pius XI wasn't talking about monarchy. He was talking about capitalism. That doesn't mean that monarchy is perfect, but can you point to any Encyclical where it is critiqued as a system (not a particular monarch) to the same level Pius XI critiques capitalism (speaking of it "invading" the social life of men, and impressing its vices upon them).

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Look, if you want to be a distributist, fine. Go be a distributist.

I am not big on unicorns, so I'm not going to join your fantasy. But you can knock yourself out.

if you prefer 1490 for a starting point on monastic orders, go for it. Wealth was concentrated in monastic orders for over a thousand years.

And if capitalism AGGRAVATES wealth accumulation in the hands of the few, then can you explain why 7 billion people alive today are all RICHER than the 1 billion people back in 1810?

Of course you can't.

Andrew said...

What is the end of man? To have lots of stuff or to go to heaven and worship God forever?

Capitalism provides more "STUFF" than distributism. If that's your point, than I'll agree with that. More stuff is not always a good. As Mr. Woods pointed out, destitution can make living the gospel difficult, however opulence makes it even harder.

By your own admission, capitalist society has given us a culture in which we murder our own children so we can spend more time and effort accumulating and enjoying our stuff.

Distributist society gave us a culture that filled up the monasteries of Europe.

I can't explain your tidbit about how even the poorest peasant today is wealthier than the richest king 200 years ago because it's simply not true.

Can a man in 2012 who lives in a hut in Haiti, launch armadas, order the construction of canals and railroads, or eat 3 square meals a day? No he can't. So claiming he is somehow materially more wealthy than the King of England was two centuries ago is pure nonsense.

A great many American Catholics come to think of Capitalism as being intrinsically Catholic, just the same way they come to think of "democracy" (meaning elected representatives) as the one and only form of government compatible with the faith. Neither is true.

Please think about our discussion. Especially, the hostility of Mises towards the Church. As Leo XIII said, social ills have religious errors as their sources.

Not that non-Catholics can't get things right sometimes. They do. But would Thomas Woods be writing for "The John Calvin Institute" or the "The Martin Luther Society". Probably not. That Mises' (or Acton's), theologial errors are less well known doesn't make them less serious, and I think it's instructive that those seeking a fusion of Catholicism and Libertarianism have chosen theoligical liberals as their representatives.

Pax Christi

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Steve and Andrew, go to They have some very interesting articles on distributism.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Andrew, as I said, go be a distributist if you want.

I'm not into fantasy.
You are.
That's fine.

Whether or not Woods is correct theologically has no bearing on whether or not the Popes are right on economics.

They can both be wrong in those respective spheres.

I'm not going to be a distributist because I see no reason to believe that it works. You haven't said anything to change that.

Andrew said...

So you maintain that it's not fantastic to believe that everyone alive today in 2012 has more material wealth than anyone alive in 1810 did? So a man living in a hut and dying of starvation is wealthier than a king in a palace with servants, banquets, guards, jewels, etc. That

If I haven't been pursuasive than the fault is mine. I'd ask you not to seriously consider the real dangers and flaws with Capitalism because I said so, but because it's what the Church teaches.

I don't see much difference between dismissing Rerum Novarum or Quadragesimo Anno "because the Pope is not an economist" and dismissing Casti Connubbii or Humane Vitae "because the Pope is not a gynecologist."

If your objection to distributism is that it "doesn't work", how do you define working? You claim capitalism is working and that is also has led us into mass infanticide and spiritual poverty. If that is working, I wonder what not working is like.

Before capitalism, did everyone starve to death shortly after birth? Of course not. Feudalism (distributism) worked for centuries. Was everything perfect? No, but to dismiss it as some untried fantasy simply isn't acknowledging the historical record.

You claim that I didn't find an explicit condemnation of capitalism, but as I pointed out JPII clearly did exclude one use of the term. At the same time you claim Pope Benedict XVI endorsed capitalism...but the quote you cited doesn't mention the word capitalism at all.

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The Church does not teach distributism.

GK Chesterton teaches it.
Hilaire Belloc teaches it.

The Church does not.
Thanks for playing though.

Andrew said...

The Church doesn't teach capitalism either, and has warned about specific dangers of capitalism in authoritative teachings.

You seem to think distributism is silly. I get that. You haven't said what exactly about it is silly. You've said it's againt profits, but it's not. Woods thinks it demands everyone own their own business, but it doesn't. You and Woods may very well have issues with distributism, and that's fine, but what you are expressing are issues with something else that you are simply calling distributism.

The Church teaches that Catholics should be guided by the social encyclicals and seek a just economic order. That's what distributism is an attepmt to do. The Church does not teach that one can simply ignore the encyclicals one doesn't particulary care for.

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

No, but I can ignore distributists.

I can also ignore any Catholic - including the Pope - who attempts to teach economic theory.

Economic theory is not part of the Faith.

Andrew said...

So can you ignore any Pope who attepmts to teach sex-ed? Is biology part of the faith? After all, how does the Church know that an unborn child is a human being? The Pope isn't a biologist.

Rerum Novarum, Quadregessimo Anno, etc are not guides on how to max out your retirement fund. They are guides on faith and morals.

How do you know when the Church is teaching about "economic theory" and when it's teaching "faith and morals"? There is a very real danger of entering into practial protestantism when Catholics set themselves up with veto power over the Magisterium.

The idea that there is an absolute division between economics and morality is false.

You've mocked distributism and now you'll say you'll ignore it. I find both choices odd, especially from someone who claims to be so well versed in economics. Far better it would be to debunk it by arguing against it on the merits. But you've essentially chosen to ignore any facts I've presented instead of offering rebuttal. You claim distributism doesn't work but don't say why. You claim it's fantastic, but don't say why. You ignore the simple historical question of "If distributism doesn't did people live in the middle ages?"

You say that capitalism has led to the slaughter of millions upon millions of children and spiritual poverty, but you don't seem to be open to any criticism of capitalism that might explain what causes those problems or how to fix them.

You, the champion of Capitalism in this discussion have essentially argued:

Captialism is the best system out there because at least you won't starve and your neighbor will murder his baby.

Sorry Steve, but I don't find that a convincing argument for any system.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I really think you must be an idiot.
The soul is not a material object.

Empirical science studies material objects, physical bodies, like the flow of ions across a membrane or the flow of money across various kinds of borders.

By definition, empirical science has nothing to do with supernatural or non-material objects. That is the province of the Church.

So, knowledge about personhood, which begins in the Persons of the Trinity, and flows through to the child at conception and in the womb, is not properly an object of empirical science, it is an object of theological science.

You know its about economic theory when it talks about the flow of money - a physical object. When it talks about motivation, a movement of the intellect and a choice of the will, then it is theology.

I will continue to mock and ignore distributism. It isn't an article of Catholic Faith. I need pay it no mind.

You say distributism was the economic system of the Middle Ages. This is bunk, but let it pass. If you want to live in the Middle Ages, I suggest you give up the computer and the Internet as a start. Toss your reading glasses, grow organic foods and learn how to wear chain mail. Oh, and you'll have to die by the age of 50, and watch your spouse and half your children die before you do.

Capitalism has not only led to the slaughter of millions, it has also led to the survival of billions. 7 billion people are alive today thanks to capitalism. Can't say that about distributism.

Distributism is a fantasy, a chimera. It isn't a doctrine of the Church nor can it be.

Andrew said...

Your conclusion seems to be that things dealing "with the flow of money" are not also "choices of the will".

How does the money move? By itself?

Economics is not the study of money by itself- what does the money look like, how does it feel, etc. Its the study of how wealth is used, which by necessity involves the will.

Why is there so much in the Bible about debts? Why does the Church condemn usury? Why does the Church talk about just prices and just wages and property rights? Why do monks take a vow of poverty? I mean if the flow of money has nothing to do with morality...

Your defense of capitalism continues to be entirely based in material benefits with no comment on the spiritual impact. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Is it better to live to 80 in an immoral, hedonistic, consumerist society where babies are deliberately murdered and we have lots of stuff, or to live to 50, have less stuff, and more babies die from disease, but less are murdered?

You're preaching the "Gospel of Wealth" which is a Calvinst/Americanist proposition, and quite different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A long ways back, we had another lengthy discussion on your blog about Presidential candidates. At the time I was rather enthusiastic about Ron Paul. Well, I still think he was the best GOP pick this time, but that's not saying much, and I've come to understand a number of very serious problems with his positions.

It's funny though. If I recall, at the time you were telling me I was idiot for liking Paul, and now you are the one citing the Ludwig Von Mises institute.

You said that "raw capitalism" is inherently antagonistic to the family. So how do you like your capitalism done? Medium-rare? What does that entail? Or do we simply have to live with the raw version, which attacks the family because there aren't any better options?

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

"Sure we're slaughtering millions, but we're improving the lives of billions"....

Do you hear what you are saying? You're justifying mass murder in the name of longer life expectancy and more stuff for those who are fortunate not to be killed as children.

As Our Holy Father has said, there are no small murders.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yeah, we have to live with the raw capitalism because there aren't any other options. Exactly right.

Distributism is just socialism lite. How do you decide what constitutes "enough" money? What constitutes "enough" land? "Enough" tools? Who chooses?

If I choose to have three cows and you think I should need only two, who decides which one of us is right?

Wasn't Barack Obama expressing distributist ideas when he said, "At some point, you've earned enough money" and "I just want to spread the wealth around." What gives HIM the right to make such judgments? Or you?

Paul was a lunatic because his foreign policy was literally insane - it bore absolutely no relation to reality. Like distributism, it was a fantasy land.

I'm glad you finally realized Paul is stark staring nuts. Maybe you'll pick that up about distributism eventually.

Andrew said...

Actually, Paul's foreign policy is one of areas where he is the most solid.

His position on war is certainly more Catholic than any of the Catholics who were running (and more inline with the Constitution.)

Obama is not in favor of distributism at all, because he is staunchly opposed to subsidiarity (among many other differences).

In answer to your question about who decides...

It's not a one size fits all answer, but by and large much of what you're getting at would be function of guilds. The plumbers guild would decide on things like rates prices to charge, wages to pay, limits on advertising, apprenticeships, etc. Different trades have different guilds. And who are the guilds made up of? The tradesmen.

Of course the guild can't make all these choices in isolation. They coordinate with other guilds, various levels of government, the Church, families, and other social bodies.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

And the farmers' guild need not decide that everyone can have 3 cows. They may very well decide that every farmer can have between 2 and 6 cows and charge between $2-$4 per gallon milk. Some farmers may be more ambitious than others or simply try different methods and strategies.

Again, distributism is not the one size fits all model which you seem to think that it is.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Andrew, I must agree with Steve in his arguements against distributism. It is socialism light. Both Belloc and Chesterton were socialists in their younger years. Distribtism itself was not exclusively a product of Catholic minds. A lot of the supporters for it came from radical, socialist circles in early 20th century England. Arthur Penty was one such individual. Yet, many otherwise orthodox Catholics will read and support his writings on distributism even though he hated the church.
I mentioned that Belloc was a socialist during his younger years. During the 1920's he was very sympathetic toward fascism. He even went to Italy to interview Mussolini and came back enraptured by the man. Strangly enough, he was also a big fan of the French Revolution, the first manifestation of the socialist ideology that was going to make life a living hell for millions of people in the 20th century.
Andrew, you and other promoters of socialist schemes are always griping about the unequal distribution of wealth. Hey, let me let you in on a great secret: some people know how to make more money than others and the poor you will always have with you. No economic system can change that. Even under socialist schemes like distributism, you are going to have the rich and the poor. But under socialism, you will have more poor people because the system creates poverty in an insane attempt to make everybody equal. Under capitalism, everybody has the opportunity to better themselves and increase their standard of living. Not everybody is able to do it, but a lot of people have been able to better themselves.
You and others have complained bout the Anti-Christian attitudes of Mises and other Austrians. As Steve has already said, economics deals with how people get and spend wealth. It doesn't deal with theology. However, theology does tell us not to covet another man's goods and not to take something that doesn't belong to us. There are many capitalists who have broken these laws, but socialism in any form is government as a great robber. It steals from everybody.
Also, please go to and read all the articles on distibutism. All of those articles show why distributism can't work, and that the idea itself is Anti-Christian and Anti-Catholic.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


So the unions would tell me how much I could charge?

Yeah, that's not subsidiarity, that's socialism. Subsidiarity means *I* say how much my labor is worth. *I'M* the one closest to the means of labor production, not the unions/guild.

*I'M* the one who knows what my family needs, not the union/guilds. This isn't subsidiarity, this is bullshit.

Like I said, distributism is a fantasy, a socialist fantasy. So go follow this crap if you want, but don't try telling me this instantiates some encyclical.

Andrew said...

Steve Dalton:

TraditioninAction is a sedevacantist cult. I'd suggest you be very careful on there.

Steve Kellmeyer:

Let's see, name calling, mockery, and refusing to address specific criticisms of your position....

You're acting just like a Westian.

Distributism is not socialism. I think what may be the issue, is one of the big concerns folks here may have is the same I had when I first encountered the idea: how does distributism come about?

If you're thinking everyone's property goes into a big pot, and then the "grand distributist" divies out what everyone gets, then yes...that would be socialism. But that's not distributism. It's REdistribution. They are two different things. Distributists don't advocate for revolution, they promote the organic transition of a society. If our culture did adopt a distributist system it won't happen in a month or a year or ten years. If it ever comes to pass, it would likely take centuries, just as it took centuries for Catholics to transform the structures of the pagan Roman empire. It's a process of gradual growth. As people become Catholics, society more reflects Catholicism.


Andrew said...


So you're right to charge whatever you want, supersedes your neighbors right to provide for his family? And if you drive him out of business through unfair pricing, that's just tough for him-right?

Subsidiarity is not radical individualism.


Andrew said...

Steve Dalton: You are again arguing against something Distributism isn't. Distribution is about equal distribution of wealth. It's about a more widespread control of wealth. Of course some people will always have more than others. Distributism doesn't claim trying to change that is desirable or possible.


Andrew said...

Typo...2nd sentence in post above should read:

Distributism is NOT about equal distribution of wealth. Mea culpa.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Andrew, I have noticed that defenders of distributism never defend the idea, they just attack the critics. For example, you don't deal with the criticism offered by TIA, you just smear them as a sedevacantist cult. While some of their posions maybe extreme to some people, they have never claimed the papacy is vacant.
If you do offer a defense of distributism, it is basically an emotional appeal toward the good old days that never were. Wood's book "The Church And The Market" shows your 'good old days' never existed in reality. I would suggest that you get your nose out of Chesterbelloc and read what other histotians said about those times.

Andrew said...

To restate some of the very serious problems with the position you've outlined Steve:

You have claimed capitalism is not at all kind towards families.

You have stated capitalism has led to the slaughter of millions, but that's ok because it's also led to the survival of billions.

You have stated that you are free to ignore certain parts of the magisterium.

By promoting a system that by your own admission harms families and leads to mass murder, you are violating a basic principle of Catholic teaching: you may not do evil that good may come of it.

Andrew said...

Steve Dalton, I'll be happy to read what TIA says for you. I didn't judge their argument because I haven't read it yet. Calling them a sedevacantist cult isn't a "smear", because they are a sedevacantist cult.

If you look around their website in the right places, you'll find that the Ordinary Form of the Mass is intrinsically evil.

If you read the book they published "We Resist You to the Face" you'll find out that the Chair of Peter will be declared retroactively vacant once they convince enough people that the Pope is a heretic.

And if you dig into the origins of the group, you'll find that "Doctor" Plinio and his mother are worshiped as gods.

Andrew said...

Steve Dalton,

I looked through the TIA distributism articles. Mostly they seem to focus on alleged sins of Eric Gill. That and claiming that distributism is socialism, which it isn't. Was there some argument in particular you made that you want my comment on?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

What gives the guild the right to set the price?

What if the price that is right for guild members doesn't work for me - I've got additional responsibilities none of the other guild members have, for instance?

What if the guild members don't happen to like me so they shut me out?

What if the guild deliberately puts prices in a position that undercuts other members of the society?

What makes the guild this infallible guide to the "just price"? Staffed by angels, are they?

Andrew, this whole guild idea is idiocy. It protects exactly nothing.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"Of course some people will always have more than others. Distributism doesn't claim trying to change that is desirable or possible."

So how is this different then the present system?

Who decides what is enough?
Using what criteria?

The advantage of someone having obscene amounts of wealth is simply this: if I come up with a great new idea that's outside the box, I don't have to convince a thousand people to contribute $1000 each - I only have to convince one multi-millionaire.

That's how Norman Borlaug's Green Revolution worked.

And don't give me this crap about how going to heaven is better than not starving to death. That goes without saying. But distributism is in no way obviously morally superior if only because it DOES NOT WORK.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Andrew, economic theory is not part of the Magisterium.

You're simply an idiot.

Andrew said...

Who said the guild is infallible?

If the guild is treating you unjustly then you have redress to the law.

You are arguing against distributism because it doesn't creat utopia, but neither I nor Belloc, nor Chesterton nor any other distributist has ever claimed it would create utopia.

Sin will still exist in a distributist system. Men will still be greedy and lazy and mean sometimes. If you want a system that eliminates all that, then don't support distributism, but you can't support capitalism either.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yeah, you have redress to the law here too.

Again, the parts of distributism that are different are stupid, the parts that are the same don't motivate anyone to change it.

You're an idiot, Andrew.

Andrew said...

Papal encyclicals are part of the magisterium, including those that deal with the morality of economic relationships.

By your own admission, capitalism is a system that leads to the mass murder of unbaptized children. That's not a good system for getting to heaven, either for the murdered children or the people who murder them.

Under the guild system, you'd need a bunch of people all to decide they don't like you and want to run you out of business.

Your "obscene" wealthy guy simply needs to decide that he doesn't like you, and can run you out of business all on his own.

Westian's call people idiots when they don't want to respond to the criticisms they get.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Andrew, not every part of every papal encyclical is a part of the ordinary infallible Magisterium.

Distributism leads to mass starvation and it would in no way prevent abortion or other kinds of murder, as you yourself have admitted when you agree that it doesn't stop sin.

No economic system stops sin.

You're both ignorant AND an idiot, Andrew.

Andrew said...

Not stopping something is different than causing it. You stated that capitalism causes mass murder. If that's not a good enough reason to look for an alternative system, I'm not sure what would be.

How long have you been not watching TV for Steve? I'd highly suggest getting off of the talk radio as well. Do that for awhile and some more of the Americanist brainwashing will wear off, and you'll be able to approach things with a clearer head that doesn't think capitalism and democracy are essential parts of Catholic life.

Stuff like this takes time to sink in. I thought distributists were nuts as well when I first heard about them. Hopefully, I've helped plant some seeds for you to mull over in the months and years to come.

The United States is not Christendom. It's never been a Catholic country. It's not suprising that our systems are not entirely Catholic, and in many cases hostile to the Faith.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

If we KNOW we can stop billions of people from starving to death with capitalism, and we DO NOT KNOW we can stop it with distributism, we have a certain duty to use capitalism.

There is no reason to think distributism would stop abortion, murder, rape or numerous other sins, so it's a wash on that front.

I don't think democracy is a necessary part of Catholic life, nor is capitalism. But there is ZERO evidence that distributism is anything but a fantasy, and a pretty screwed up one at that.

Are you willing to risk the lives of 7 billion people? Because that's what you're doing when you advocate radical change in the economic system. And if distributism isn't radical change, then why should I care?

Andrew said...

Did you read the part about distributists don't advocate revolution? It's not like you flip a switch and we go from capitalist mode to distributist mode. Building a distributist society would be a gradual process that takes place organically over many, many years. There are things worth working towards that won't be done before you die. It's called caring about your progeny and the future of society.

Christendom wasn't built in a day the first time, and our neo-pagan society won't be reevangelized in a day or a lifetime either. As Catholics we are called to work for the restoration of all things in Christ.

Distributism unlike socialism, is not a change imposed from the top down. Change comes about from the "small things" each family is able to do. For example, a father sacrificing to acquire land that his children could live on when they are grown, and thus escape the burden of mortgage debt in their life.

Again, not stopping something is different than causing it. You have stated that capitalism causes the murder of millions of people. If that's what you believe, then as a Catholic you can't support Capitalism.

If capitalism is not a necessary part of Catholic life, what alternatives are there? Earlier you said that there are no alternatives. Have you changed your mind?


Andrew said...

Since a number of folks keep arguing against imagined aspects of distributism, which are not in fact elements of distributism at all, here's a good brief summary of what it is:

Of course, you can't fit too much detail on a flyer, but it's a good overview. Reading up on what distributists have to say for themselves in books is the best way to judge distributism. Rather than relying on the Von Mises Institute, or Acton, or Tradition In Action or the GOP or anyone else who more often than not attack distributism by making it into something it's not.


Andrew said...

Another good read for you Steve. This article by Thomas Storck addresses you contention that you may ignore what the Church has to say about economics.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

Andrew, your problem is that you don't know how to read encyclicals and neither does Thomas Storck.

You both read a lot more into the encyclicals than is actually there.

Now, go off and play with your distributist toys. The grown-ups have work to do.

Andrew said...

More Westian-style responses. I'm disappointed in you Steve. You get a lot right and I really hope you will come around to realizing that your blend of libertarianism and neo-conservatism is not compatible with the faith.

I know you usually get people to go away by escalating the obnoxiousness. It doesn't bother me. I deal with a lot worse on a regular basis.

I may very well be an ignorant idiot. It depends on how you define your terms, there are many people more knowledgable and smarter to be sure.

I must ask though, do you think Leo XIII and Pius XI were ignorant idiots?

Pax Christi

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Chesterton and Belloc were very smart men who knew very little about economics. The Popes are, generally speaking, intelligent men. The Popes have said a lot less about economics than you represent.

Distributism is not a doctrine of the Faith. Capitalism is not in opposition to the Faith.

While Christ is King and the Church is a monarchy, the Church only forbids societies from being atheistic communist or racist socialists. Beyond that, the Church does not speak. Human societies can be monarchical, republican, or democratic.

Human societies can be capitalist, barter-based, guild-based or whatever other permutations our little hearts desire as long as we treat each other with justice.

What constitutes justice is a prudential decision that is not subject to infallibility.

If you go beyond this, you go beyond what the Church says.

You have made distributism a religion. I am a Catholic - I don't believe in your religion.

Andrew said...


You keep telling me that distributism is not part of the magisterium as if that is some fatal blow to my argument.

I've never claimed it is part of the magisterium or that you or any other Catholic have to be a distributist.

I've said distributism is based upon magisterial Church teachings. When you read the social encyclicals, you see that is exactly what's called for- people to build up ideas on the framework of Church teaching. Can someone build up other economic ideas that are based on Church teaching? Sure. You could do one yourself if you want.

So while I am not saying you have to be a distributist, you can not hold the position you have outlined:

-That you support capitalism
-That capitalism is not opposed to the faith.
-That capitalism is antagonistic to families.
-That capitalism leads to the murders of millions of people.

Those are all things you said. They don't go together. Something that is opposed to the family is opposed to the faith. Something that leads to murder, even a single murder, is not something to be supported. Can a Catholic be a capitalist? As John Paul II said, it depends on how you define a capitalist. By your definition, a Catholic cannot.

Pax Christi

Andrew said...

"It (capitalism) assumes everyone and everything is raw material."

Those are your words Steve.

If you don't think treating people like things is opposed to the faith you are mistaken.

Your comment really gets to the heart of the problem. Capitalisim, or at least the "raw" brand which you say is our only option, doesn't see abortion or war or prostitution as evil, because raw capitalism doesn't see good and evil. It sees profit and loss. Aborition and war and prositituion aren't evils. They're simply business opportunities.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Riding horses is hard on people butts. If they road unicorns, they wouldn't have any pain at all.

It is obviously absurd of me to promote the riding of horses over the riding of unicorns when unicorns are much more clearly in line with Magisterial teaching that people should not be harmed.

Alright, you got me there.
I'll promote unicorns from now on.

You can have the last word in this thread, because it is now officially beyond stupid.

Andrew said...

Thank you for graciously offering the last word to me, and for your participation in the discussion. I think it's been good. You have certainly made me think.

So for the last word, I'll simply point out that getting a sore butt from riding a horse is not a sin. Murdering babies is a sin. The toleration accorded to the two seems like it should be quite different.

Pax Christi

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Andrew what lead to the murder of millions of people was greed and selfishness. It can exist in any religious or political system, but it absolutely thrives in a socialistic one. Socialism in any form encourages it's adherants to see anyone who is not a socialist as the devil incarnate. Socialists hate competition, because deep down, they know people want to strive to be better than the other guy. They want everybody to be equal, to have the same as everybody else. The problem is, nobody in their right mind want to be the same. This is why any form of socialism (like distributism)will always fail fail. This is also why any form of socialism will always be forced to resort to mass murder to achieve its goals. Different thinking people have to be forced to give up their individuality at gunpoint or be shot. Murder mass or otherwise, can happen under capitalism, but people with private property can fight back against individals or a government that seeks to harm them. Under socialism, this is next to impossible. BTW Andrew, where is all this property under distribtism going to come from? Are people like me who own property going to give it up willingly to fullfil your fantasy or is it going to be taken from me at gunpoint to make more 'capitalists'? I've askedthis question of several dissies and I've never gotten a straight answer, just a lot of hemming and hawing.

Andrew said...

Steve Dalton, you really are misunderstanding distributism.

Distributism is about individuals having more control over their property, exactly what you say puts restraint on tyranny.

Distributism is not about everyone having the same stuff or being the same. I think it's kind of like homeschooling that way- yes homeschoolers all have some things in common, but they are also incredibly diverse.

Where does the property come from? People make it, then they keep it. As I said to the other Steve, distributism isn't "hey everyone put their stuff in a pot and then we'll divy it out equally". That's REdistribution which is not distributism. Distributism would be implemented from the bottom up not the top down and come by the way of a gradual and organic transition, not a sudden revolution. The transition comes about by convincing people to think differently about property and life. When people decide there is such a thing as "too much stuff" and that spending some time with their wife and children might be more important than all the overtime they can get, then we'll be on the way to distributism.

I hope that helps. I had some of the exact same concerns that you do when I first heard about distributism. I'd encourage you to read up on it some for yourself.