To the insane man his insanity is quite prosaic, because it is quite true. A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad. It is only because we see the irony of his idea that we think him even amusing; it is only because he does not see the irony of his idea that he is put in Hanwell at all. In short, oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people.
Hanwell, which Chesterton is referring to here in the chapter of Orthodoxy called “The Maniac,” is, as you probably know, an insane asylum. His description of the ordinariness of madness would make Hanwell a good name our present economic system.
It has become oh so ordinary for big companies to buy out smaller ones or merge into bigger ones. During the last two weeks of January 2005 a Distributist can see how this trend of homogenized madness in the business world effects us all. It is the same in the halls of government of course, but these events I will relate hit home hard in the Boston area, where I live.
During this period of time, the conglomerate Proctor & Gamble bought out the local-based razor and battery giant Gillette with the latter’s permission. As is par for the course, this merger will result in factories closing, with thousands of workers losing their jobs, throwing their futures into agonizing doubt. Gillette claimed that they would be treading water if Proctor & Gamble didn’t take them over.
However, the Massachusetts Secretary of State is launching a probe to inquire whether Gillette’s financial strength was as weak as it claimed. According to Boston Herald, the CEO of Gillette would take home a financial package worth a now estimated $185 million. Reporter Brett Arends noted two days earlier that an employee making $50,000 annually there would have to slave away for more than 3,000 years to make the amount the CEO will receive.
In the other major economic event, the Boston Globe, owned by the infamous New York Times Corporation, is attempting to buy a forty-nine percent share in the free daily paper the Boston Metro. The Times is offering the Swedish-based Metro International, owner of the free daily, $16.5 million in exchange for the share. The Herald has filed an anti-trust suit against the Globe in light of the attempted purchase, citing concerns over monopolizing news coverage and advertising revenue in Boston, thus reducing competition.
But there is further controversy yet. Two officials of Metro International had to resign their positions over racist remarks they made during gatherings held for their corporation. Black leaders in Boston have demanded the Times and the Globe to scrap their attempt to buy into the free daily because of the racist slurs by the two executives. Furthermore, the parent company of the Metro has a partial owner, Modern Times, who owns twenty-eight percent of the company. Modern Times controls a Swedish network that, among other programs, telecasts European porno films.
We have seen such shenanigans before and worse in companies like Enron, WorldCom, Bechtel, Halliburton, and Wal-Mart. The maddening idea that “bigger is better, all the time,” devouring small competitors like they were snacks at a buffet table, is rampant among too many in the circles of big business. Like their counterparts in big government, those in the boardrooms of huge conglomerates feel the need to always grow and spread. They are not satisfied with living within limits.
Can this trend toward larger companies and conglomerates be stopped and reversed, along with the similar trend toward a World State run by a self-proclaimed elite? Yes, it can. It will take long, hard efforts against those who believe in the fantasy of “bigger is better.” More and more people realize these trends are wrong and they are galvanizing to fight against them, but they lack one important thing. They have no comprehensive vision of what they would replace it with. Without a vision the people perish.
We have a vision to offer. It is Distributism. It is grounded in common sense, sane limits and the Good News.
As Chesterton wrote in The Outline of Sanity:
The world has woken up very late; but that is not our fault. That is the fault of all the fools who told us for twenty years that there could never be any Trusts; and are now telling us, equally wisely, that there can never be anything else.
In a Distributist society, companies like Gillette, Proctor & Gamble, the New York Times and Metro International would not be so huge. Both balanced legislation and consumer action would keep such companies from expanding to their current size. Likewise, the powers of government would be kept in check by similar methods, so as not to fill the vacuum with the tyranny of a heartless bureaucracy.
We can defeat the twin giants of big government and big business. Giants are made to be defeated by the likes of us.
©Gilbert! Magazine (The Distributist)
Reprinted with Permission