Monday, February 04, 2008

The Spread of Distributism


The principles which are advocated in this journal as a means of restoring social order and justice in the disordered industrial civilization of Western Europe are neither new nor exclusive. But whereas most of the world has taken them for granted, it has been left to us to formulate them anew as opposition to the principles that have brought about our present calamitous economic, social and moral disorder, and as a basis upon which to rebuild a new civilization from the ruins of the present.

In the material sphere, there are two main philosophies, mortally opposed, upon one of which a new civilization may be built. These two are Communism and Distributism. The prevailing condition cannot withstand either of these because it has no basis other than the shifting sands of expediency and opportunism. The modern condition has arisen not so much because men have chosen it as because it has just happened whilst men have abandoned themselves, as they will proudly claim, to doing and getting. They do and get without thinking about what they do and get or why, except in the immediate sense of temporary material advantage. This is the process known boastfully as “muddling through.” It consists in getting into one muddle after another each one worse than the last. We are too busy getting out of one muddle ever to stop to think how to avoid getting into more. Anyway stopping to think is a reactionary operation, a hindrance to progress.

Distributists agree with Communists on one point only, namely, that the present process is disastrous both materially and morally (within the limits of the Communistic meaning of morality). In everything else Distributism and Communism are as opposed as Distributism and unbridled Capitalism. In these oppositions, which it has been left to the founders and supporters of this journal to formalize, there is no possibility of compromise. It must be war to the death between them. It is our particular business, amongst others, to keep these facts alive even at the risk of a repetition no less boring to us then to our readers. It is vital that not only ourselves but the whole civilization that is menaced by the evils we oppose, should be alive to the facts, and we are therefore gratified to find an awakening to our principles, even in our own terms in the place where much of the coming fight will be fought, whether the decisive action lies here or there.

Our distinguished contemporaries, America and The Commonweal ,whose circulation in their own country is certainly not less influential than our own at home, have frequently supported our arguments, and often though by no means always derived their inspiration from us. Whenever they have done so they have been more than generous in acknowledgment. But many other journals and a much wider public are waking up to the situation in America as in England.

At the Catholic Rural Life Conference Convention recently held at Wichitakas, in addition to the general principles of a sane social order and the pre-importance of the primary human industry of agriculture which were emphasized (the former derived mainly from the religious sources of the Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno) we learn that the following were adopted as fundamentally necessary to “the basis of true prosperity”:

(a) “The widespread distribution of property ownership as essential for the foundation of a sound economic order.”

(b) “Equitable distribution of property, according to the capacity and needs of the producer, as opposed to wasteful land utilization.

“We believe,” declared the members of the Convention, “that the State has both the right and the duty to aid in securing such equitable distribution, by sane policies of land conservation, rural planning, etc…We urge Government Co-operation in removing the burden on the agricultural group, e.g., by (a) Equitable distribution of taxation, thereby relieving the land of its undue burden; (b) reform of the system of local government, so as to conform more perfectly with the economic and social condition of the farmer.

“The Conference deplores anything that tends to promote the growth of Corporation farming, so-called, since this strikes at many of the fundamental values fo rural life.

“As a regenerative force…we urge the cultivation of the spiritual ideal of Christian collaboration in the sense of free and intelligent co-operation.”

Finally, in order to keep young people on the land “and in view of the patent need of special credit facilities for the realisation of this aim,” the Conference “favours a study of credit resources that would look forward to the formation of an agency to extend credit on reasonable terms to young men who aspire to follow the farming profession but lack the necessary funds to make the start.”

These extracts from the report of the proceedings of the Conference, make it clear that there is an intelligent body of opinion working seriously and actively in America along Distributist lines. Whether their inspiration be derived from religious or secular sources, the activity is eminently practical and commendable. It should provide matter for consideration by the Distributist League and its branches and by any other bodies concerned with the restoration of agriculture, the establishment of a normal balance between urban and rural life, and that regulation of relations between the individual and the state upon which depends the administration of social order and justice.

Interview with Thomas Storck

On Cooperative Ownership

John Médaille Interview in Romania

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