Brave New Alternative: Modern Distributism

[This article originally appeared in The Geauga Times Courier. It is reprinted here by permission.]

by Jesse Yates

The United States of America, at the time of its founding, was to be a nation governed by the rule of law -- by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution’s Preamble, naturally, articulated its goals, among which was to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. Set in stone, therefore, were certain indispensable means to this end: a limited federal government with powers both clearly defined and which acted to check and balance. Somewhere along the way, however, something went wrong. When states and big businesses are vying for “their share” of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, when they are groveling at the feet of a federal government, which can set any condition it wants upon them, can it any longer be said that the federal government works within the parameters originally intended to “secure the blessings of liberty”?

Many people point the finger of blame at Fabian socialists (modern Democrats), rightly decrying redistribution of wealth. What many of these people forget, however, is that welfare is welfare by any name, thus corporate welfare, money to big farms, and all sorts of Republican earmarks “redistribute wealth” just as effectively as any liberal scheme. But even aside from this type of redistribution, big business globalists (modern Republicans) wind up enabling the very ideology they claim to detest. When only a fraction of the already tiny percentage of capitalists are “too big to fail,” then government has no real choice: it’s either “bail out” or let civilization as we know it sink. To many, our current predicament is an absolute surprise. But to some, it is really no surprise at all. For a while now, in fact, there have been “voices crying out in the wilderness”, and it may be time to listen to what they have to say.

The title for this article was inspired, as a case in point, by Aldous Huxley’s work, though not so much by his classic novel Brave New World as by an alternative he subsequently offered. From works like Brave New World Revisited and a forward he later added to Brave New World, one will find Huxley speaking of the need for economic decentralization and distributing property as widely as possible in order to remedy the oppressive partnership between big business and big government; in connection to these remedies he draws upon names like Hilaire Belloc, Mortimer Adler, and Henry George.

Though none of these men are any longer with us, their ideas are still very much alive. Belloc, for instance, along with well-known author G.K. Chesterton, popularized a theory known as Distributism, and a simple Google search will turn up pages worth of modern Distributist theories, practices, and demonstrated successes. Among the successors of Belloc and Chesterton, John Médaille, who writes for a blog called The Distributist Review, is playing a part in advancing Distributism both by his insightful writing and by drawing upon allied elements -- like (Henry) Georgism, strategies evolved from Mortimer Adler by CESJ, and, in addition to Huxley’s references, E. F. Schumacher’s work (among others).

All of these men, incidentally, would agree with President Obama that change was long overdue; still, neither elitist socialists nor monopolistic capitalists, that is, neither Democrats nor Republicans have given, nor will give us anything but an insatiably power hungry “Servile State”. The an swer may be, as the song goes, “blowing in the wind,” but, then again, perhaps the “winds of change” and a brave new alternative, are only a few more Google clicks away.

Jesse M. Yates


Anonymous,  Monday, March 16, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM CDT  

I agree that distributivism (at least what I understand of it) points to a new direction, and there is a growing body of modern knowledge about it to help explain it (although I'm still looking for someone to write "Distributivism for Dummies").

I think your "Republican" and "Democrat" models used to explain the contrasts expired long ago though. IMHO except for the pet "causes" there is basically no difference. They are all pretty much owned by the think tanks, lobbyists, and most especially banks.

But I get you point.

John Médaille Monday, March 16, 2009 at 1:52:00 PM CDT  

Jim, Glad you asked. I am writing just the book you asked for, although I wouldn't call it "for dummies." The title is Equity and Equilibrium: The Political Economy of Distributism. I hope to have it out by July. You can read the drafts of each chapter on-line here at the Review; they are tagged "The political Economy of Distributism."

Anonymous,  Monday, March 16, 2009 at 4:24:00 PM CDT  

As Studs Terkel said to the convention of Citizens Party 1980: "this here is a doulble vodka gimlet glass. In it yu can put in the differences between the dems and peps and still have room for a double vodka gimlet." I get tired of the democrats being called socialist or Obama being called a socials since if they were I would vote for them. They, like China and the USSR, represent a state bureaucracy which is nothing like the socialism that I have read and understood which are more local and citizen led. There has been no communist or socialist country, ever. Rather state bureaucracies calling themselves socialist or communist. Could it really work? I don't know. But I am all for ore local, hands on, people led systems.


Jesse Monday, March 16, 2009 at 5:24:00 PM CDT  

Hi Paul. I suppose there comes a time when a theory is defined more by its practical effects than by its theoretical end.

Jesse Monday, March 16, 2009 at 5:26:00 PM CDT  

John, Chapter XVI anytime soon?

Anonymous,  Monday, March 16, 2009 at 5:42:00 PM CDT  


I agree that the practice becomes the definition but it still bugs me :) My science and math upbringing likes to have and use definitions consistently.


John Médaille Monday, March 16, 2009 at 6:37:00 PM CDT  


Hope to have it in two or three days. I want to have the whole thing completed next month in draft, and the re-write completed by mid-May.

Jeremy VanGelder Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 12:41:00 AM CDT  

Hey guys, here is an article from World Magazine that talks about some guys who are trying to turn "Micro-credit" into a business opportunity. I thought you might be interested.

Tom Laney Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 6:24:00 AM CDT

Check this out.

Ian Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 11:49:00 AM CDT  

I think decentralisized local economies are the key, if we grew our own food, and built our own homes and had wood to keep us warm in the winter no one would have to work for these corporations, would we even need money any more? What would happen if we all threw out our tv's and started banking with local credit unions, we have the power to shut down the walmarts, and the mcdonalds, what would we care if wall street fell if we all built our own homes as a community like th amish, we would not be effected by any of this....

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Werd by 2009

Back to TOP