m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...
Letters from GS
A Reply to Praise of the Essay
I'm flattered by John Peterson's response, though I can hardly hope to have destroyed "Urban Distributism" with my brief essay ("Against 'The American Distributist' by Daniel Krotz", GS, December 1996). And of course I too must quibble:
The reluctance of most distributivists to return to the land is not quite so problematic as Mr. Peterson has implied. Agrarianism is for the young and romantic - one can hardly expect hoary old Chestertonians to leave off puffing on their cigars to milk cows. They can do their duty by bankrolling and inspiring the next generation in distributivist projects. More importantly, our shining example of distribution, medieval agrarian society, is not the only logical possibility. If all of the means of production in our modern world were distributed (rather than centralized), much more than the arable land would be in the hands of the populace, and the cow-shy could easily find a place in the just society.
On a minor point, I wish to add that I never said I did not advocate violent dispossession of the Capitalists. I merely failed to advocate it in this peaceful forum, instead suggesting milder methods of redistribution where Mr. Krotz disavowed redistribution entirely. Mr. Peterson, quite understandably, misses another subtle point: to the question of the soul I added a biblical quote by which I hoped to imply that even in the religious camp immortality had not always been taken for granted. (Ecclesiastes 9:5 gives an even clearer dissenting opinion.) Distributivists have more pressing concerns than the resolution of age-old controversies by fiat.
I agree that a flourishing true religion should lead to a just society, but, no evangelist myself, I must take the hard political road to the non-servile state instead. While a distributivist philosophy should assert that the spiritual and economic improvements we all desire must go hand-in-hand, redistribution itself is primarily an economic enterprise that can and should be undertaken in a catholic, rather than Catholic, spirit.
Lastly, in an age when the air is full of philosophies which assert the relativism of belief regardless of the implied contradiction, Mr. Peterson should allow Mr. Krotz to clear Distributivism of such a crime in peace.
A Reply to Criticism of the Essay
I must agree with Mr. Rockett that my prose was entirely unpersuasive and unclear. How else could he have though that I was insisting upon "third-party or intermediate property transfers" as the sole means of redistribution, when the only serious suggestion in my article was rather "restoring the land to the people one family at a time, by private means"? I am curious how Mr. Rockett expects his Buddhist monks & company to distribute filthy lucre which is not legally theirs, if not by some intermediate transfer of said property. This is not the age, I beg to remind him, of robber-barons and scrooges capable of repenting and turning their ill-gotten fortunes to better ends. It is not in the nature of multinational corporations to sell off their holdings at the homey county auctions he envisions.
I am but a poor wage-slave, furtively typing my dogmatic distributivist tracts on my master's computer. I must apologize to Mr. Rockett if my duties called me away before I could polish every rough spot of my argument. I hoped mainly to counter Mr. Krotz' idea of a back-yard Distributivism lacking redistribution of any sort; formulating a plan for effective redistribution was more than I had hoped to accomplish. Yet I will not apologize for what Mr. Rockett called "glib appeals to thinly-disguised Secularism." A religious girl living in a secular society must make a rational, even secular, case for her pet political philosophy if she expects to get a hearing. There will always be the option of converting the entire nation to her own religion and then making a religious argument for Distributivism, yet I doubt Mr. Rockett wants to be converted.
Libellous accusations of Secularism cannot prove Mr. Krotz' assertion that Distributivism "always concludes in belief in a soul" for him, and if Mr. Rockett truly objects to the Separation of Distributivism and Religion let him show that Islam, for instance, is not just as compatible with Distributivism as his or Mr. Krotz' religion is.