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A Distributivism Page
Are there no calamities in history? Nothing tragic? May we never weep over the defeated? ... Must we always desert the cause as soon as fortune forsakes it, and bind ourselves to the cause which is in the ascendant, and hurrah in the crowd that throw up their caps in honor of the conqueror? Orestes Brownson, 1843
Also known as distributism and distributionism, distributivism is a political philosophy similar to agrarianism. The means of production should be distributed as widely as possible among the populace; they should neither be hoarded by a oligarchy, nor controlled by the government. Certainly the means of production should not be held by the government in the name of fictitious communal entities, but should be held by individuals in their own hands, or in the case of land, under their own feet. For those projects beyond the scope of an individual or family, a guild system is recommended.
Although the Distributist League was founded in 1926, distributivist ideas predate G. K. Chesterton, Distributivism's most famous proponent. The turn-of-the-century Populist and arts & crafts movements embraced distributivistic goals, as did several literary figures of the day. In more recent times, distributivist ideas have reappeared in the guise of "back to the land" or "Small is Beautiful" movements. True distributivists are unopposed to technology per se but are Luddite in their disgust at machines which disenfranchise people. Distributivists are not so irrational as to pursue progress for its own sake nor so immoral as to do so for the gain of a few at the expense of the many.
- About Distributism
- Related Movements
- Catholic Social Thought
Introductions to Distributism
- What is "Distributism?" by David M. Deane
- A history of distributivism from Third Way Britain
- The Distributism page at Justpeace has a short explanation of distributivism. (Almost all the links are broken. The Justpeace page on Practical Distributism is, at least, practical, though most of it isn't distributivism per se.)
Websites and Mailing Lists
- Distributism: The third alternative of the New Christendom, formerly distributism.org
- The Distributist Review - a blog that "discusses economic, political and social events and problems, in America and the world, from an explicit Distributist perspective."
- The Distributism Forum, a Yahoo!Groups mailing list.
Articles and Essays
- G.K.C. the Distributist is a selection of Chesterton's writings housed at the American Chesterton Society
- The University Concourse hosts a series of articles on distributism by Thomas Storck, Philip Harold and others.
- By Dorothy Day:
- In First Things:
- Fr. Neuhaus dismissed distributivism as Economics in Verse (First Things, April 1995).
- The distributivists had their chance at Defending Distributism in letters to the editor (First Things, August/September 1995).
- For a novel perspective on traditionalist politics in America see Peter Kreeft's "The Politics of Architecture" (First Things, November 1996)
- Roots of the Catholic Worker Movement: Distributism: Ownership of the Means of Production and Alternative to the Brutal Global Market by Mark and Louise Zwick (Houston Catholic Worker, September/October 1999)
The following are extracts from the list of references on distributivism in the alt.revolution.counter resource list.
- Hilaire Belloc: The Servile State (1912) attacks both socialism and statism.
- Hilaire Belloc: Restoration of Property (1936) argues against both communism and capitalism.
- G.K. Chesterton: The Outline of Sanity is a classic Distributist work arguing for the wide-spread ownership of property. A review of the book for modern-day Catholics appeared in St. Catherine's Review, March/April 1998.
- G. K. Chesterton: What's Wrong With the World (1910) doesn't mention distributism as such, but asserts, "We can now only avoid Socialism by a change as vast as Socialism. If we are to save property, we must distribute property, almost as sternly and sweepingly as did the French Revolution."
- Cobbett: Cottage Economy (1821) provides an alternative to the concentration of economic wealth and power in the hands of a few: small businesses and a return to honesty and craftsmanship.
- E.F. Schumacher: Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (1973) discusses the anti-social effects of big business and the need for small family properties.
- I wrote an article, Against "The American Distributist", for the December 1996 issue of Generally Speaking, and responded to some letters to the editor it provoked.
- I also wrote up some answers to the problems with distributism set forth on a web page, now apparently down.
- William Cobbett (1762-1835)
- John Ruskin (1819-1900)
- William Morris (1834-1896) and the Arts & Crafts Movement
- G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) and Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) of the Distributist League
- Father Vincent McNabb O.P. (1868-1943)
- Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and the Catholic Worker Movement
- The Traditionalist Conservatism Page
- The The New Agrarian
- Third Way, a distributivist political party in Britain
- England Devolve Home Page
Catholic Social Thought
- Justpeace: Catholic social justice teachings
- Rerum Novarum: An Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII on the Condition of the Working Classes (1891)
- Quadragesimo Anno: Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on Reconstruction of the Social Order (1931)
- Centesimus Annus: Encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (1991)
- An essay on Mutualism from the Brisbane Institute
- The Ambler: 'If pressed, I would call myself (after Erik von Kühnelt-Leddihn) a right-wing anarchist--or a "paleoconservative." (Actually, I may have invented the latter label, circa 1986.) So-called "paleolibertarians" will find much to their liking here...'