We've Moved!

Dear Friends of The Distributist Review and The ChesterBelloc Mandate,

On the 4th of July, we are proud to present our brand new web site, The Distributist Review. The Distributist Review will provide analysis of our contemporary social and economic world, with the addition of vintage essays from G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and the early Distributist League. The site’s primary focus is Distributism and its relationship to the world we live in. Whether discussing capital and labor, urban and rural reform, politics, or “what is wrong with the world,” we strive to deposit the proper perspective on the fundamentals needed for social and economic restoration, as our readers want to know what prescription we can offer for the building of a practical Distributist culture.

Our mission is to pave the way for common ground between diverse political backgrounds, working tirelessly to harmonize social justice and orthodoxy, and helping to build the framework necessary for the creation of a popular Distributist movement.

In addition, our web site will now include guest contributions, movie and book reviews, audio and video resources, downloadable materials, and a print/PDF feature for all of our articles.

Please join us, bookmark our site, and help us to spread the word.

Go to www.distributistreview.com/mag and do not forget to order “Jobs of Our Own” by Dr. Race Mathews by going to www.distributistreview.com/press.

Neither Left nor Right. Looking back and moving forward. The restoration is up to you.


Schedule Change for Chesterton Conference


If you plan to attend this year's Chesterton conference, please be aware that changes have been made to the schedule. Joseph Pearce will now speak on Friday.



The New Devereux

Dear Friends,

For some time the editors of The Distributist Review have been on a mission to move beyond the shores of Blogger. While this has been our happy home for almost six years, our principle objective to find a new design that could marry The Chesterbelloc Mandate and The Distributist Review is now mission accomplished. With this new site our readers will receive the best vintage material and current analysis of the Distributist model, and we are confident our template has the right spit and polish to attract new readership and bring attention to this very important journal.

What Can You Expect?
The Distributist Review's new home promises a fresh dynamic. While retaining its hard-hitting commentary and superb analysis, our site's attractive features will increase readership and re-energize the Distributist movement. We've added book and movie reviews, foreign language articles, guest contributions from academics and laymen in the trenches, social networking icons so you can post our articles on Facebook or Tweet them, podcasts, written interviews, and printing or PDF options (TBA).

An announcement with the new url for The Distributist Review will be made over the 4th of July weekend. We invite you to join us at our new home, add our new address to your websites, and tell your family and friends about us.

On a personal note, I wish to thank all our contributing editors over the years for giving so much of their time, effort, and heart. They truly outline sanity. They do not do this for thanks nor do they receive the compensation they deserve. What they do is not just for us, but for Christ the King! May God bless all of you. Your articles reflect how grace is a call to action.

Servire Deo regnare est!

PS: While some articles will be migrated to our new domain, this web site will remain available as an archive.


Chesterton Conference 2010

Remember friends, if you cannot make the entire conference you can always purchase tickets for just one day. This is a great opportunity to listen to some great Chestertonians and talk shop. Networking with one another is an excellent way to organize and build future relationships. I want to personally meet every single one of you.

So if you cannot make the entire event, consider coming out Friday or Saturday. Talks will include "Scientism: The Mistake About Science," "GKC and Edmund Burke: The Mistake About Conservatism," "The Mistake About the Social Services," and the highly anticipated talk by Joseph Pearce (author of "Small Is Still Beautiful") titled "The Mistake About Progress."

If you can't make all three days, come out Friday or Saturday. See you there!

To register, go to http://www.chesterton.org/2010conference.htm

29th Annual G.K. Chesterton Conference
Mt. St. Mary's University
Emmitsburg, Maryland
August 5-7th


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What Would Frodo Do?

By Jason Hamza van Boon, Reprinted by permission of Tikkun Daily Blog

I recently posted on Tikkun Daily the following quote on JRR Tolkien vs Ayn Rand:

“There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.” – “The Value of Nothing” by Raj Pate
It’s been somewhat of a hit with Tikkun Daily readers (as I write this, it’s ranked #5 on our “most read posts of the past 7 days” list). This led me to wonder: Did Tolkien have a view on political economy?

We know what kind of economics John Galt and other Randian heroes espoused. And many more people get turned on to lassez-faire capitalism by Rand’s novels than by libertarian economics treatises. (The first history of libertarianism, by Jerome Tucille, is actually titled It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand). So, if fantasy novels can provide an ideological basis for the opposition, can progressives find inspiration from Tolkien, one of the greatest storytellers of all time?

In other words: What would Frodo do?

I’m not an expert on Tolkien. Whether he had a worked out view on economics is an open question for me. I do know that he was part of the great English reniassance of writers and thinkers from the first part of the 20th century, largely Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic. Tolkien was a member of the Inklings, a literary discussion group that included such luminaries as C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams, and was also a friend of the illustrious Dorothy Sayers. (Alas, Albion, how far hast thou fallen!)

The milieu they inhabited was friendly to a movement called “Distributism” (also known as “Distributivism”), an alternative view on economics developed by Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton. They were inspired by the encyclicals of popes such as Leo XIII and Pius XI, who took prophetic stances against both robber baron capitalism and totalitarian Communism. They taught about he need to find a balance between individualism and totalitarianism through a judicious blend of market processes, co-operative associations of labor and capital, and progressive legislation.

In response to these teachings, the Distributists proposed that there was an alternative to the extremes of laissez-faire capitalism and complete state ownership of the economy. In fact, they pointed out these two extremes shared a common feature: the means of production become concentrated in the hands of a few. The “choice” is between a corporate oligarchy and a governmental one. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

An alternative would be to have private property widely distributed throughout society, so that every adult person is an owner of capital, or productive property. They proposed a commonwealth of independent farmers, small proprietors, and worker-owners in co-operative firms and guilds. Each household would have enough to live a life of dignity, but not so much that they could tyrannize over others.

A nice vision, one that’s often been criticized as utopian and romantic. Recently, however, there’s been a Distibutist and “natural law” economics revival, with sharp thinkers such as John C. Médaille working out the economic logic of a feasible Distributism.

But back to Tolkien. I knew that he wrote when Distributism was in its first heyday. And the Shire does seem like an ideal Distributist society. So, was Tolkien a Distributist?

Matthew P. Akers makes a case in St. Austin’s Review that Tolkien’s Middle Earth writings do exemplify the principles of Distributism–both as a positive model in the Shire and critically through showing the destructive processes of an inhuman, anti-natural regime (think of Mordor as the first BP!) St Austin’s is a conservative Catholic journal, but of a distinctly non-Ayn-Rand, non-neo-conservative kind, and progressives will find Akers’ remarks on economics, the environment, and imperialism to be very congenial.

Some selections:

In the modern world, we are accustomed to a highly-centralized industrial economy that engages in international trade and is controlled by the twin powers of “big government” and “big business”. In contrast, the Shire’s Distributist economy is a diffuse system based upon small farmers, small business, and local trade….

The two controlling powers of the modern industrial economy — big government and big business — are absent from the Shire. Bigness in any form is foreign to the Shire’s economy, which is localized, agricultural, and hobbit-sized in every sense.

After Sam, Frodo, Pippin, and Merry leave on the quest to destroy the ring, the Shire’s economy changes dramatically.

When the four hobbits return from their quest, big government and big business have encroached upon the former hobbitsized economy, industrializing it. A large bureaucracy comprised of outsiders now controls the Shire’s economy, and its principles of production have expanded well beyond what is necessary simply for maintaining the needs of the Shire and its inhabitants. Pimple and Sharkey, two aptly named villains who lead this attack upon the hobbits, buy up much of the Shire, concentrating land and resources in the hands of a few, which is antithetical to the Distributist insistence upon the necessity of widely distributed private property….

This environmental destruction has also destroyed the indigenous culture of the hobbits. They have become industrial serfs rather than agricultural freemen (sic). Now, the hobbits depend upon the industrial work they perform at the new mill for their livelihood rather than enjoying the fruits of their agricultural labor. They also crouch in fear before the big government that has taken over the Shire, for this new government controls the mill, the hobbits’ source of livelihood. Once the hobbits are severed from nature, they are severed from their very essence: they are no longer free and fun-loving. Instead, they have become industrial slaves, both to their masters at the mill and to their bureaucratic masters in government. Ted Sandyman, the former owner of the mill, now works there as a wheel cleaner — a menial laborer — for the new owners. Once the hobbits’ reliance upon nature is destroyed, their self-sufficiency follows. The hobbits and their community are lost when the land is forsaken….

Like Sauron, Sam wishes to use the ring, but, unlike Sauron, Sam wishes to use the ring to promote freedom. He has a vision in which he sees himself brandishing a sword and using the ring to lead an army into Mordor in order to conquer it and to transform the industrial wasteland into a giant garden. While this vision is highly appealing to Sam, he ultimately realizes that “the one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.” Sam recognizes that he cannot make his agrarian vision a reality through imperialism, and he rejects this imperialistic and militaristic temptation.

I certainly recommend reading the whole article.

Now, I can anticipate some snarky comments from the pro-capitalist Right. I do not propose using magic rings or elvish charms to fix the economy (although I suspect those are less fantastic than supply-side economics, or certain forms of Keynesianism). The case for a progressive, “third way” economics must be made through the cold logic and dry prose of economic theory and empirical analysis.

But, to her credit, Ayn Rand did show us something. An economic policy will never gain popular support unless we show how economics relate to meta-economic principles of ethics and “the nature of things.” Literature is certainly an appropriate vehicle for this. And, to paraphrase E.F. Schumacher, Tolkien shows us that hobbit-sized is beautiful.


The Biggest Earmark is Empire


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