“This is not the capitalism you’re looking for.”

distributism seems to be getting popular again

distributism seems to be getting popular again (Photo credit: russelldavies)


The abuses of a system do not refute that system as such.


Yes, when some lobbies garner statist, rent-seeking favor at the expense of workers and families, it’s mistakenly called Capitalism (or more honestly called “Monopoly Capitalism“), but when workers and families enjoy low barriers to inject their own voices and creative productivity into the larger market, it’s really what free-enterprise capitalism is all about. It’s no coincidence that the essence of capitalism as “creative destruction” could be renamed as “productive violence.” #ClassWarfareHeresy


I get mixed signals about the existence of class warfare from the distributists I’ve read so far. I don’t even believe in classes, from a theoretical standpoint. In fact I think it’s one of the three keys defects in Marxism that negate the whole theory. I also think that the Church teaches that there is a divinely ordained natural order that includes material disparities. These are not what is meant by class warfare. Class warfare is a Marxist trope, caring within it the whole toxin of the materialist-superstructure theory of history and culture, and as such is a term Catholics should not meddle with.


The best I can do right now is to stand behind the following (current) motto: “A world shaped by distributist values, achieved by free-enterprise means, articulated in Catholic natural-law terms.” I was explaining my quandary to my mom today and let slip something true, but that I have/had absolutely no intention of sounding so snarky: “For a while I was a committed Distributist, but then…I…studied economics.” Free market thought grants that markets are embedded in value systems and legal orders (after all, value of commercial items is derived from how much agents would exchange for them, and such items achieve their appeal based on cultural assumptions), so it’s not anti-capitalist to promote distributist-style results qua culturally mediated values. I mean, aesthetically and culturally, I ADORE the distributist ideal. Alas, though, distributists have so far been very compelling whiners, frankly, about how free enterprise has been hijacked, but abysmally poor merchants of practical distributism. Honey, vinegar, flies, and all that.


The only way distributism will succeed is either i) by ruthless statist enforcement, ii) the near-total conversion of the world to Catholicism, or iii) distributist business owners providing better utility than capitalist alternatives. Like it or not, distributists need to talk a lot, a lot, a lot less about agrarian Old-South, Hobbit-pipe dreams and why “capitalism sucks”, and waaaaay more about practical distributist paths ahead. This is usually done, of course, by trotting out the ubiquitous “MondragónTaiwan-And-Some-Random-Small-Business proof”, but until these examples become more than tropes (e.g. Mondragón is maybe a quintillionth of the global economy and relies on free access to non-distributist markets, Taiwan is a capitalist nation now, etc.), and until distributist firms beat capitalism at its own game, distributism will be trapped in its echo chamber, or ultimately encased in the menagerie of Failed Grand Theories Of Everything, whilst actual middle-class families keep going to Walmart and welfare kiosks in order to maintain their slow but sure ascent away from their ancestors’ levels of labor and penury.




About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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One Response to “This is not the capitalism you’re looking for.”

  1. Pingback: Has capitalism failed the world? – Head to Head – Al Jazeera English « Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

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