News that's Fit to Print

It isn't often that a major newspaper runs even a single editorial on a distribtist theme like the family-centered economy. But yesterday, the Dallas Morning News ran not one, but three editorials on this issue. The first was from Patrick Deneen, Europe's Secret. He recounts a three week trip through Europe, but not the Europe of either the American liberal or “conservative”narratives, which mainly concern places like Amsterdam, Brussels, and the Hague, but through the small towns of Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland. In this Europe,

Nearly every household seems involved with the land in some way or another, whether through a small garden and wood stand or a larger farm. In the back yard of many homes, one still finds chickens that roam free; fruit trees that are now bearing apples, pears and cherries that will be made into jam; water barrels that catch rainfall with which families water their plants. Nearly every yard has an enormous pile of wood, stacked carefully and in perfect symmetry.
Because of laws governing closing times and zoning restrictions, family businesses and small companies still dominate the landscape. Owning the stores in which they work, proprietors are far more knowledgeable about the products they sell than one typically finds among minimum-wage workers in American retail megastores. And in many cases, families live above the businesses they run.

Prof. Deneen points out that this Europe contradicts the grim narratives of both the right and the left:

In America, it is our liberals who praise the liberties of Europe while overlooking the conservative impulse of its self-restraint. Meanwhile, our conservatives condemn the statism of Europe without understanding that efforts to conserve – to be conservative – require the active support and laws of government in order to combat the tendencies of markets to produce waste and undermine thrift.

In the second editorial, the redoubtable Allan Carlson answers questions about his forthcoming book, Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies – And Why They Disappeared. Talking about how a family-centered economy might come about in this country, Prof. Carlson says,

A contemporary American Third Way would build on those sweet cultural revolutions already spreading in the land. Homeschooling, a rarity three decades ago, now embraces 2.5 million children and is reinventing American education on a family-centered model.
After a century of decline, family-scale agriculture is growing again. "There has never been a better time to be a farmer" crows Small Farmer's Journal this month. Market demand for organic foods has tripled the income of many family farms; there are 4,500 farmers markets in 2007, up from 1,750 in 1994; Community Supported Agriculture farms, where farmers and their customers form a partnership, may number 3,000 (none in 1985). A surging worldwide demand for milk has also reinvigorated family dairies.
Meanwhile, the number of home-based businesses in the United States may be as high as 36 million, quadruple the number found in 1990. Since most American laws and regulations still favor mass schooling, agribusiness, centralized factories and big-box chains, these gains remain fragile. All the same, the political party that genuinely embraces this emerging family-centered Third Way will know success.

Carlson's last line is particularly important. Rather then being politically impotent, Distributists and like-minded people hold the key to political power in this country, if only they realized it. In this age where officialdom worships global giganticism for its own sake, the party that embraces the local business, the family farm, the sufficient family, will be the party that achieves power, and achieves it most securely.

Finally we have Crunchy-con Rod Dreher's editorial, Not even our parks are safe. Rod is the editorial director of the Morning News and doubtless responsible for this Rare Display of Sanity in a Major Metropolitan Newspaper. His comments are directed at the individualism which has become the basis for both the “Liberal” and “Conservative” politics and ideology. In reality, the liberals have abandoned true liberality and the conservatives have nothing to conserve. Rather, both have surrendered to a cultural conformity, where the intensity of the arguments in in direct proportion to their triviality. Rod notes,

My friend Tom Kelly has lived in Washington all of his long life. During his Depression-era boyhood, families would escape the heat by sleeping under the stars in the public parks, everyone together, happy as clams. Can you imagine?
And here we are, wealthy and free beyond anything our grandparents could have conceived, but afraid to let our children go to the park on their own. How rich we have become, and how very poor.

This theme of cultural poverty amidst material wealth is one that resonates with me personally. I grew up in New York City in the 50's (giving away my age) in a poor neighborhood. But the odd thing was that I didn't know it was poor until I left it. Indeed, it seemed very rich to me. For example, there is the matter of transportation. No one on the street had a car. Yet, for 15 cents, the subway, and the City, were ours. My brother and I would love to go to the Museum of Natural History to see the Tyrannosaurus Rex that dominated the lobby, or the Blue Whale that hung in the basement. Or we could go, at our leisure, to Coney Island or even Far Rockaway. At 8, we were truly men of the world. My own children, by contrast, grew up in a prosperous Texas suburb; there were always two cars in the driveway, but there was no transportation, at least not any available to them alone. And it's just as well, for there was no real place to go; the cultural highlight of the city was the shopping mall.

Congratulations to Rod Dreher and the Dallas Morning News; finally, some news that's fit to print.


Unknown Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 12:09:00 AM CDT  

Hi John,

Very interesting post, thank you. I was particularly interested in the Dreher piece and your remarks on it. Two questions come to mind. One is, is there really a greater danger in venturing outside in a big city nowadays (particularly in regard to children), and if so why; or are we just convinced there is, whatever the evidence, and so act accordingly? And two, I'd like to ask, ala the late great Jane Jacobs, if there are distinct advantages in densely populated cities? If you or anyone else would care to address these points, I'd be interested and appreciative.


papabear Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 11:30:00 AM CDT  

Ah, so Dr. Carlson has a new book coming out... looking forward to it! Thanks for the news!

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