Friday, October 31, 2008
An Inquiry into the Distribution of the Wealth of Peoples
Distributism is an Outline of Sanity. While laissez-faire capitalists attack it as socialism under any other name, and socialists are unable to understand the difference between the two theories, Distributism is quite distinct from both. Essentially, Distributism is the startling idea that there is more to life than raw, mathematical economic growth or equality of income.
The theory was originally developed by a small circle of friends headed by G.K. Chesterton and Hilare Belloc around the turn of the twentieth century. The foundational text of the theory is the Outline of Sanity, in which Chesterton lays out the key criticisms of the laissez-faire capitalist approach (as was being practiced in the England of his day) and discusses what a healthy socioeconomic situation should look like. However, Distributism was then, and still is, and nascent theory, and there are no dogmatic policy recommendations in the text, instead, today’s Distributists must approach the status quo with independent analysis in order to develop beneficial ways to arrive at Chesterton and Belloc’s vision.
While the theory was officially born of that circle of friends, the foundations and inspiration of the movement are found in the Papal Encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadregisimo Anno, which outline Catholic Social teaching. This being said, it is necessary to define the theory.
Distributism mainly deals with the idea of property. While typical capitalists claim that their theory is the most supportive of private property, Distributism claims to supersede the laissez-faire doctrine. Perhaps the criticism is best explained by Chesterton himself: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” Everyone should own a reasonable amount of property. Socialism wants to abolish the ideal; Capitalism favors the concentration of property into the hands of an oligarchy. Both of these are the enemies of freedom, as they deprive the majority of humanity of their individual freedom and power that comes with property. While Capitalists rely on the expression of the “free market” in order to justify their theory, when this happens, Capitalism concentrates wealth more and more, until it begins to look suspiciously like Socialism, except that big business rules instead of big government. And after that, it becomes impossible to distinguish between big business and big government, and essentially, we have the exact same thing. Some will almost certainly respond to this with the assertion that “Socialism has failed; Capitalism has succeeded.” The Distributists warns that person not to be too hasty. Just because the U.S.S.R. lost the Cold War does not mean that the Capitalist can write off every other economic theory. Furthermore, who is to say that the United States will not crumble tomorrow? The Capitalist cause is not yet won. In the end, both Capitalism and Socialism work to end up in the same place. Distributism vehemently opposes this oligarchy.
However, Distributism must do more that simply oppose the twins Socialism and Capitalism and stand for something on its own. It does indeed fulfill this requirement. Distributism is the unabashed promotion of private property. Every man should own some property and some means of production. “Wage slavery” as Chesterton called it greatly inhibits the freedom of the individual and only serves to continue concentrating wealth. While this is not necessarily a bad thing on a small scale, almost all jobs today are wage jobs. The entrepreneurial class is dying, and this theory seeks to rejuvenate it. According to Chesterton, a large class of entrepreneurs and small business owners would be the most dangerous single socioeconomic arraignment to those who would concentrate power into the hands of a few. Big corporations have great influence in the U.S., while the government is a *tad* too influential in China. Both are enemies of the freedom and self-governance of the populace.
Some attack the theory by arguing that it somehow futility opposes the law of comparative advantage and the division of labor. Perhaps this is true to some extent. However, specialization would clearly continue; however, the theory does indeed oppose specialization to approaches the limits of insanity. For example, having five hundred people all doing one single task over and over and over again in order to make a pin is psychologically damaging. While some would argue that this is necessary to bring down the price and increase output, perhaps the world does not need so many pins. Perhaps if the process were unspecialized, pins would also be expensive enough to make a wage on, without creating an excess of the product. This allows the laborer to maintain his sanity while still meeting the world’s demand for pins.
As the graph demonstrates, a reworking of our economy could indeed make less efficient pin production quite sustainable. If the entire industry went back to smaller shops, the price would increase because of the shift of the supply curve; however, there would not be the drudgery of picking five hundred thousand pins of one production line, and then placing them on the next. Furthermore, if the entire economy switches, then there will be little to no actual change in PPP (purchasing power parity) as workers will both earn and pay more. Distributism does not destroy equilibrium, but it does re-center it with new a new equilibrium price and equilibrium quantity.
Here, it is necessary to note that Distributism is a normative economic theory, not a positive economic theory. Chesterton and Belloc do not claim to be able to buck the stars and control the invisible hand. Instead, they simply realize that there is more to life than what might appear most economically beneficial, and so justify innumerable actions with the shallow claim that it is best for the markets. Furthermore, the Distributist movement reminds the world that “Not all that glitters is gold.”
Distributism has no track record, and so its solvency in the real world is still theoretical. While I believe the Distributist cause is unlike in most of the world’s superpowers, many of the currently marginalized regions hold great promise. Hopefully Distributism will be enacted before they can hurdle themselves down either the Socialist or Capitalist trail of folly. The most promising countries for the implementation of Distributism lie in the Caribbean and the South Pacific islands. While neither capital nor economic growth is particularly noteworthy in these regions, they are smaller and geographically more isolated than their continental counter parts. This already creates an atmosphere of small property holdings and reasonable economic independence from other lands. Furthermore, the island culture also lends itself to Distributism.. Distributism will most likely have to enter the U.S. at the local or state level, as attempting to do so at the Federal level is not only ridiculously unlikely, but also contradictory to the Distributist tendency towards the devolution of powers. Furthermore, the current level of centralization in the U.S. is very high, and fighting the mega-corporations must come from the bottom up.
Distributism is a novelty in economic theories, perhaps because it is not extremist in either direction. The Distributist model fits the socioeconomic lock of life and threatens the theories long upheld by the world. Thus Capitalism and Socialism both attack Distributism desperately, hoping to retain their deathly grip on the freedom of humanity. Only then do they run into a surprising Distributist who never knew that he was one: Thomas Jefferson.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
1. ..."you seem to be going in for journalese proverbs. Do you believe that truth is stranger than fiction?"So there you have them. I do not say GKC wrote no others, though it is very unlikely; there are a few other appearances of "stranger than", of which this, though possibly tendentious, is worth consideration:
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction," said Basil placidly. "For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it."
[GKC, "The Singular Speculation of the House Agent" in The Club of Queer Trades (1904)]
2. [Shaw] has based all his brilliancy and solidity upon the hackneyed, but yet forgotten, fact that truth is stranger than fiction. Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.
[GKC, Heretics CW1:66 (1905)]
3. ...we must not mix up the ghost story, which is a story about a ghost, with some other technical type of tale, such as a story about a corpse. The ideas are on two different planes, and one willalways suffer from the presence of the other. Either the spiritual story will be much too thin, or the blood and bones story will be a bit too thick. Ghosts, in short, may wander about in real life, if they like, because truth is stranger than fiction; but in the refined world of fiction we must be a little more exclusive and fastidious in our selection of ghosts. They must be family ghosts in the sense of ghosts of good family; or only living (like the dear old butler) with the best. A mere mob of phantoms, for all I know, may march like an army up the high road of history; but we must know more about the particular ghost before we allow him to appear in so serious a thing as a novel.
[GKC ILN May 30, 1936; special thanks to Frank Petta and my mother for this essay]
All that dark and yet exuberant imagery belongs to a tradition that can be seen in the art and ornament of Spain. It can be seen in the special Spanish love of black; the black which is not the negation of colour, but rather the accumulation of colour. It can be seen in the rich darkness of Spanish churches, fretted with the golden fire of countless candles. But it can be seen fully and completely only in the world-wide spreading of the Spanish culture in the sixteenth century, when it met on its borders monsters stranger than whales; red men and golden mountains and a new world. It had many crimes, which are not hidden in Claudel's poem, but it had this very enviable greatness that strange stars and new sciences were then opened to a Christian world that was still full of chivalry; of which wicked men colonised for greed, but good men did not colonise only for commerce; when the white man was as romantic a figure as the red man, and trade had not destroyed the Red Indian to replace him by the Regular Guy.So what I would like to know is: when will ChesterTeens (by that or any other name) be publishing their first book of fiction? I for one would like to read some of your fiction, be they about ghosts, corpses, Spain, or whales....
[GKC ILN Mar 19 1932; reprinted in All I Survey; thanks again to Frank Petta and my mother]
P.S. I would like to address Old Fashioned Liberal's comment about creativity being a kind of discovery, but I have other chores, and (due to the expected length of my reply) I would prefer to handle it elsewhere, since it will require a short presentation of a very interesting result of automata theory, which few of our audience may have at their disposal. But it ought to be quite interesting, if I ever get to it.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
TRUTH must necessarily be stranger than fiction; for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.
(Todays quote of the day)
I think the following story from the marvelous Wisdom and Innocence by Joseph Pearce, is very much in the spirit of the quote above
Many years later this splendid stir and thrum was to have a marked effect on
Douglas Hyde during a train journey through south London:
Through my mind, in rhythm with the wheels, ran a verse from Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse I had re-read not long before:
Therfore I bring these rhymes to you,
Who brought the cross to me,
Since on you flaming without flaw,
I saw the sign that Guthrum saw
When he let break the ships of awe,
And laid peace upon the sea
Could there be so many Catholic Churches? I asked myself, as cross followed cross. Why had I not seen them before? Through Herne Hill, Tulse Hill, smug, suburban Streatham, the crosses came and went. And still the wheels hammered out Chesterton's lines:
Out of the mouth of the Mother of God
Like a little word come I;
For I go gathering Christian men
From sunken paving and ford and fen,
To die in a battle, God knows when,
By God, but I know why.
Hyde was, at this time, a leading member of the Communist Pary and news
editor of its paper, the Daily Worker. Soon after, he resigned from its ranks
and became a Catholic.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Keep in mind that the tone a comment or post is intended to portray is sometimes difficult to ascertain (especially in times of disagreement) unless great care is given to one's choice of words. So please read through your posts and comments before publishing them.
Also, in general, I'd like to request that we don't stray too far from our Chestertonian theme here and that responses to comments be posted to the appropriate comments box rather than as a new post.
Your friendly neighborhood moderator.
By the way the moderator and the president are considering a division of blogs to further accomodate our recent growth. We are thinking that it might be beneficial to have separate blogs for high school and college age Chestertonians. We would be very much interested in your input on the subject. Please e-mail me at love2learnmom at gmail dot com with your thoughts.
Monday, October 20, 2008
It is a short story called Special Guests. Here is the cover of the book (which is not yet in print):
I hope you will enjoy it.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
P.S. There's a reason for me always saying "News News News" and not just "News."
Every location in the fourth dimension containing the event of the Levithian according to the Jehovah's Wittnesses reducing its speed until it comes to a complete stop I emote that it has fractured past aluminum cases containing controlled ion reactions of besiegers, and that the object of anthropology has won an international pugilism against the fruits of evil that take the form of randomness. You dictate vilifiedly and condescendingly that at the time when one has left Sloane equilateral rectangle one is in the position of having the necessity of arriving at Victoria. I declare! Strength of doing could be employed in myriad objects rather, and that in that situation in history when I sail into victoria I possess the perception of shoestring lifestyle in an uneconomic sense liberation from death. And when my life-chemichals are at a certain point between birth and death, and the locomotive major-domo grates on our aural organs by declaring the part of speech that bears the name (not the function) "Victoria!" it is not a word such as communist american journalists use when they say 'ethics.' This verbal sonic situation has the form and the actuality of a person who could speak more loudly than others in the middle ages announcing the formal defense of one's land with force of arms, regardless of whether such action was necessary. It is to me in the act of doing "Victoria" and the fact that the hearer of the protoevangelion's descendants have done something to something undesirable to make it not exist any longer.
Here's the original.
Every time a traincomes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, andthat man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuouslythat when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. Isay that one might do a thousand things instead, and that wheneverI really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. Andwhen I hear the guard shout out the word 'Victoria,' it is not anunmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcingconquest. It is to me indeed 'Victoria'; it is the victory ofAdam."