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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Distributism Doesn't Work

Distributists like to say that if we all just reverted to the views of a couple of men who knew little to nothing about economics, the world would be better off.

It's been tried.
It has failed.

Unless someone can find an equally large scale experiment in which thousands of businesses built on the small, work-at-home model actually succeeded, there isn't much more to discuss.

Most people are not psychologically prepared or equipped to run their own business. Just as running a major corporation takes a certain kind of personality, so does running a small business. Not everyone has the right personality. It is foolish to think even a majority of people do. Distributism doesn't work.


Steve Dalton said...

I don't know if the my comments on your previous post was responsible for this post, but thanks for the link to this article. It confirms in my mind that the Chesterbelloc fantasy called distributism is a castle in the sky folly. It also backs up what Thomas E. Woods Jr. said in "The Church And The Market". Sadly, the Disties won't listen to reality. When criticized, they tend to repeat their ideas like a mantra to block out any negative feedback they get from their critics.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

It was in response to your post, actually. Your remarks reminded me that I had wanted to blog about this article when I first found it a couple of weeks ago.

I've tangled with distributists too. They are a specific sub-cult within the Catholic Church. Talking with them is like talking with Garabandal fanatics. There's really nothing more to say.

Flambeaux said...

Amen, Steve & Steve. So right.

Kevin Tierney said...

Have everyone repeat after me: There is no one particular "Catholic economic system" There are rules of economics that aren't concerned with morality, and they need the principles of the Gospel to regulate them. This doesn't mean distributism though.

R said...

Sure, but let's just keep trying the same thing over and over and over again. It is, after all, what plants crave.

R said...

I was just reminded that I have read this dismissive before. It went something like this.

"Unless someone can find an equally large scale experiment in which millions of families built on the small, home school model actually succeeded, there isn't much more to discuss.

Most people are not psychologically prepared or equipped to run their own home school. Just as running a major public education system takes a certain kind of personality, so does running a small, private home school. Not everyone has the right personality. It is foolish to think even a majority of people do. Homeschooling doesn't work."

Andrew said...

I think you are correct in a number of ways Steve.

1) It's takes a certain personality, skills, talents, etc to be your own boss.

2) Most people in modern America do not have those things.

I agree with you on both of those counts. However, I think a distinction needs to be made between what is the current situation and what is possible. We know that in the past, say pre-Civil War America- a very large portion of the population did support themselves as independent farmers and tradesmen. What happened? Well lots of things happened, but I think three of the most relevant are:

1) Our education system stinks. Far from actually educating people, it would be more accurately called our retardation system. I don't use the word as any sort of comparision to those with congential mental disabilities. Rather, I use it to mean exactly what it means. Our schools both public and private retard, or slow, the development of our children. As you've pointed out, a 16 year old should be fairly well equipped to assume married life. Most 16 year old Americans are nowhere near ready to get married.

2) Mass media shorten attention spans and pumps up avarice. We have a "Gimme, gimme, GIMME, I want it NOW!" culture.

3) Loss of belief in trasncendent Truth and a coming judgement upon the occasion of our death.

All three of these factors, along with many others contribute to a population that is extremely ill-suited to assume greater financial independence. What we do have a population that wants free contraception.

Greater individual responsiblitiy is certainly a difficult road, no doubt about it, but it's hard to see a viable alternative. It's like being a drug addict. Quitting is hard. Not quitting means ultimate death. Belloc, was right, we are on the road to slavery, and when it is back it will not be imposed on the masses by force, it will be granted them because THEY WANT IT.

R said...

Ah, yes. The Servile State. Thank you, sir!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

R and Andrew,

You both may want to actually READ the linked article instead of commenting blindly.

Given the article content, I can't see how your comments make any sense.

Steve Dalton said...

Steve, R and Andrew don't have to read no stinkin' article to criticize what you said. They know if you don't already accept the holy words of the Prophet Chesterbelloc, you're wrong anyway! LOL!

Andrew said...

1. Mr. Dalton, did you miss the part where I agreed with much of Steve's point? I didn't realize that "you are correct in a number of ways" equaled unreasoned, antagonistic raving.

2. I was commenting on Steve's comments, not the article. This seemed appropriate since it's not clear that Steve's comments are really all that reflective of Mr. Karnani's. Karnani never mentions distributism. It's unclear to me how microfinance funds established by "Global commercial banks, such as Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG" are examples of distributism. Karnani (and Steve) also never mentions the real problem with modern financial systems either macro or micro, which is usury.

Karnani is correct that "stable jobs" are an essential ingredient to overcoming poverty. Stability is also the central thread that runs through Belloc's "The Servile State." Liberalism/Capitalism is unstable. Consider how many job changes the modern American goes through in their life time. Another example of how this instability manifests itself is the symbiotic relationship between capitalism and contraception. Like usury, contraception is a sin that is part of the foundation of our economic system. Contraceptives are needed for two chief reasons, so that maximum working hours can be squeezed out of women and so that maximum dollars can be squeezed out of families to spend on consumeristic junk. Eliminate usury and contraception from capitalim and you get something fairly akin to distributism. Now, most Americans have absolutely no intention of eliminating usury or contraception from their lives, which is why Steve is correct that our society is, at present at least, very ill suited for economic independence.

Belloc argues that the present instability will be resolved in one of three ways.

1) Return to a wider distribution of property which will allow stability. This will be very difficult.

2) Return to the pre-Christian institution of slavery, which provides stablity but will be resisted because people also desire their freedom.

3) Socialism, which will be presented as a compromise measure allowing stablity without taking away freedom. Since this choice appears to avoid making any hard decisions it will be the most likely taken, but the compromise is an illusion, and socialism will eventually end in slavery.

That was Belloc's analysis a century ago. As far as I can tell it appears to paint a pretty accurate picture of the current situation. We shouldn't give an ear to what Belloc and Chesterton have to say because they are "holy prophets" but because they were smart men who were grouned in the Faith and got a lot of things right. Pax.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Andrew, because the definition of money has changed, the laws against usury are no longer applicable.

It's like getting married - a married man can no longer fornicate. It simply isn't possible, because the definition of who he is has changed.

As for the rest of it, Belloc failed to anticipate automation. It's possible to live in a slave society without violating anyone's freedom if the slaves are machines.

Automation has created the current set of issues, not banks.

Steve Dalton said...

Andrew, you're correct about most pre-civil war Americans being farmers or tradesmen. They had to be trademens because they didn't have big industries back then that could provide jobs and these had to be farmers because they didn't have the means of food preservation (refrigeration and the like) that we have today, transportation(railroads, trucks, planes) that could get foodstuffs to the market, and stores that could sell the food at a reasonable price. All food had to be grown locally, and if a famine hit the area, it was deep doo-doo time for the locals. And help would be slow in coming with transportation back then being limited to waterways and horse drawn wagons.

You claim like your Chesterbelloc, a wider distribution of property is the magic cure all. Oh? Were's all this property going to come from? Are property owners going to voluntary surrender tracts of land for this grand experiment? Not very likely! The only way distribution of land is going to occur is if someone buys the land from someone else (where are they going to get the money?)or the government seizes it from one person and gives it to another. This was widely done in the previous century. You have heard of socialism and communism, haven't you? Was the kind of distributionism a howling success? I don't think so! The government never let go of the property it "distributed" and you Chesterbellocians won't be able to do it either. To do so would mean losing control over your grand experiment. People would start buying and selling their lands without your benevolent hand to guide them. Yep, your distributism is just another mutation of the failed socialist/communist nightmares of the 20th century.

Andrew said...

Steve, your analysis of usury is flawed in some ways. I'd recommend the work of both Thomas Stork and Anthony Santelli on the topic. Pax.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

No, my analysis is fine. Thanks for playing.

Aquinas Dad said...

So when a major multinational corporation (which Distributists point out distort the market) hands out usurious loans (which are contrary to Distributist theory and Catholic teachings) to people below the poverty line (which is contrary to the basic theory of *microfinance*) and a large number of these sketchy loans fail it is because...
Distributism doesn't work? Really?
How about 'high interest loans don't work'? Or 'subprime lending doesn't work'? Or 'subprime lending with really high interest rates often fails; and in other news, the sun rose in the East'?
And all from one article! An article, may I add, with no peer review, oversight, or contrary position.
From 6 years ago.
If you look at, say, the Frankiewicz study on microfinance (you've read it, right?) or the notes from the 2007 Microfinance Summit (you've read that, too, of course) or the Reynolds, Novak study on microfinance and job creation (a real must read, so I am sure you re-read it before you wrote this. Right?). They all point out that when microfinance follows its own theory and adheres to the basic theories of Distributism that it is an engine for job growth.
Oh, I'm sorry. Did referring to peer reviewed studies on the impact of microfinance, both good and bad, and the interplay of usury, large corporations vs. NGO's, and poverty cause me to become a "Distie" who 'repeat[s] [his] ideas like a mantra to block out negative feedback'?

Aquinas Dad said...

"Oh? Were's all this property going to come from? Are property owners going to voluntary surrender tracts of land for this grand experiment?"
Are you being disingenuous or are you honestly this ignorant? The property in question will be...
With money earned from labor.
Labor performed by the purchaser.
In a voluntary transaction.
To the mutual benefit of both parties.
That is how buying things works, after all.

Your question betrays a profound ignorance of the basic concepts of Distributism. Distributists want small, limited government, reject the confiscatory ideas of socialism and communism as inherently immoral, focus on voluntary transactions between people, the accumulation of capital, the right to private property, etc.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Aquinas Dad,

You don't understand what usury is.

As for peer review, thanks for the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. I would expect no less than logical fallacy from a distributist.

Steve Dalton said...

Aquinas Dad, I've noticed that when people question distributism, they're always accused of being disingenuous or ignorant by it's supporters. I'm neither AD. I know enough about it to know that this idea originated in the radical political atmosphere of the 19th century that produced communism, fascism,and socialism. Distributism shows itself as product of those time by the very language used by the Chesterbelloc and their supporters.

You say the disties will get that property by buying it. Oh? Most owners of productive property aren't going to sell it. So even if you save up all that money, it's worthless if the property owner won't sell. And I doubt the jobs that your distributist enthusiasts would have would enable them to buy such expensive property. So you can talk till the cows come home about your castle in the sky, but the sad reality is that when property has been "distributed" in the past, it's always been because a government agency had acres of undeveloped land to give away, like the US did under the Homestead Act or it took it by force, and gave it to others they favored, like the various forms of socialism did.

Aquinas Dad said...

Sorry, I somehow almost missed this.
Your own piece on how you disagree with the Magisterium's clear, consistent teaching is underwhelming.
Further, 'appeal to authority' is NOT a logical fallacy. The logical fallacy you want to invoke is 'appeal to *false* authority'.
For example, if your aunt says that purple crystals will sure bursitis because her psychic said so - appeal to false authority.
BUT if your doctor tells you he is prescribing keflex based upon his professional training, peer reviewed studies, and your medical history that is *not* an logical fallacy.
Therefore, your invocation of a single non-reviewed source as 'proof' is *you* committing an appeal to false authority (as is your link to your own piece on usury) while mye reference to actual peer-reviewed articles is not.
See the (very clear) difference?
BTW, I have a $20 bet with a peer of mine that you won't leave this comment up. I'm betting you won't.

Aquinas Dad said...

Mr. Dalton,
In other words - you admit that you were wrong, but think Distributism still can't work because people in the marketplace will refuse to exchange goods for money?
No, you still seem to think 'Distributism' will somehow involve some sort of coercion because it has the word 'distribute' involved, somehow.
And as for,
" I doubt the jobs that your distributist enthusiasts would have would enable them to buy such expensive property"
What does that even mean? Is this some *cough* "sly" attempt at claiming Distributists are incapable of earning money?

Steve Dalton said...

AD,what on earth do you mean I'm admitting I was wrong?! What kind of dream world are you living in? I said no such thing. I stand by what I said a month ago, that distributism is a socialistic fantasy that won't work in the real world.

As for you claim that I said that distributionists are incapable of earning money, I said no such thing. I said I doubted the jobs that your disties have would enable them to buy such expensive property, and that most owners of such property wouldn't sell it. I'm not going to bother arguing with you, because you and your fellow disties won't listen to reason and all of you intellectually dishonest.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Aquinas Dad, I'm quite comfortable both with the strength of the essay, the strength of my references, and the weakness of your reply.

I'll let the reader judge relative strengths.

Pay off your bet. In the decade in which I've run this blog, I have deleted less than three comments, and all of the deleted comments were so filled with vile language and so lacking in point that there was no point in leaving it up.

I don't delete comments. You apparently haven't followed this blog very long, or you would know that.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Steves, give me a break.

Dalton, you sound like a closet libertarian. Kellmeyer, I admire your stuff, and frankly you have hit on the greatest weakness in Distributism, which is the fact that the Proletarian Mentality is endemic, either because most people are not constitutionally able to run their own businesses, or because we have grown up in a culture that says a job = security.

But stop your name calling, guys, and admit the common ground I'm sure we have - usury is evil and an economy that is not based on the production of real wealth is not a healthy economy.

Usury and the separation of value from speculation is what our global economy is all about. Huge has married Gudge and there's less and less we can do about it. Call it capitalism, crony-capitalism, monopolism or Vegas on Steroids -call it whatever you want, it's insane.

Distributism, for all its flaws, advocates for a wider distribution of capital, the end of usury, and the acknowledgement that the economy is made for man, not man for the economy.

Begin with that and quit calling us retards.

Steve Dalton said...

O'Brien,you're the one who's wrong.

I'm a Catholic who accepts Capitalism, not any kind of libertarian. I reject libertarianism because of it'd stand on decriminalizing sex crimes and drug use. I accept traditional Christian morality on both of these issues. I accept capitalism because it has been tried in the real world and it works. Distributism has been discussed, argued for, argued against, but never tried in the real world. Why should I place any confidence in a system that has never even had a pilot program to prove it's validity?

Distributism is a socialist concept. One only has to read the history of socialism and distributism to realize they both came out of the intellectual ferment of the 19th century that produced socialism, communism, fascism, and national socialism. Both Belloc and Chesterton were socialists in their younger years, and the very language used by them in describing their distrubutism theories are extremely socialistic. The website has several articles on distributism that proves it's socialistic roots. I'd suggest you read them so you won't waste your time and ours pushing this follishness anymore.

Aquinas Dad said...

Mr. Dalton,
You write,
"Distributism has been discussed, argued for, argued against, but never tried in the real world."
In addition to the rather well-documented Mondragon Corporation, a Distributist firm engaged in everything from heavy manufacturing to retail (which is a 14 billion Euro a year firm, there are hundreds of successful Distributist firms in North America right now. Credit unions and cooperatives all fall under this rubric.
Was this profound ignorance or deceit?

Steve Dalton said...

AD, your claims about Mondragron being a distributist enterprise is balderdash. It's a co-op. Co-Op's existed a long time before the Chesterbelloc ever appeared on the scene. My Finnish grandfather, who I can assure you never heard of these guys, was a member of one. I'm a member of a credit union, so I don't care to be lectured by you about my supposed deceit or profound ignorance. Especially, if they follow the teachings of two guys who never had any training or education in the field of economics.

Aquinas Dad said...

I know people who have no idea what deontology means - does that mean that they are incapable of following deontological ethics?
Of course not.
Just as your ignorance that Distributism is about advocating for co-ops, credit unions, etc. does not mean that Mondragon isn't within the Distributist sphere nor that credit unions somehow cease being Distributist.
BTW, since banks existed centuries before the term Capitlism will you likewise argue that banks aren't Capitalist?

Steve Dalton said...

AD, you seem to have an obsession about people who disagree with you about your little hobby horse. I'm not going to bother with your cult like behavior anymore. As I said in my first post, you and your fellow disties tend to repeat your ideas like a mantra to block out any negative feedback from your critics. So kindly take your omm elsewhere, I'm blocking you out!

Aquinas Dad said...

Let's see;
you make factually incorrect statements, your attempt to refute correction reveals your ignorance of the topic at hand, and you respond to *that* with ad hominems and running away.