Distributism vs. Socialism
(…)Distributism was dismissed as “utopian” and the other usual tactics, but there was one charge that stuck in my craw: a respondent claimed that Distributism was just “Marxism with a rosary.” A rather gross misrepresentation, but unfortunately quite typical from those who defend Capitalism against Socialism and assume that anything that is not pure Capitalism reeks of Marx.
Chesterton said that perhaps the worst thing about Capitalism is that it has achieved all the things that Socialism set out to do: “It is all very well to repeat distractedly, ‘What are we coming to, with all this Bolshevism?’ It is equally relevant to add, ‘What are we coming to, even without Bolshevism?’ The obvious answer is—Monopoly. It is certainly not private enterprise.”
Marxist Socialism believes in centralizing the means of production and distribution into the hands of the government, as well as all decisions relating to politics and social matters. It is opposed to the very idea of private property. Marx’s Communist Manifesto includes the phrase, “from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” Who would decide who has the ability to do what, and who needed what? The government.
Marxism and most Socialist philosophies put more power into the hands of central government. But as Chesterton notes, it still favors the trend toward monopoly nonetheless, only with big government holding all the cards rather than big business. The average man is simply “one of the masses,” just a unit of production that can be replaced if it goes “counter-revolutionary” or “deviationist” at any time.
Further, like Capitalism and Fascism, Socialism has a materialistic core to it, a belief in the utmost importance of the things of this world. It operates under the assumption that life on this side of the grave is all there is. Religion is an enemy to the system, lulling people away from responsibility, an “opiate of the people.” Socialism tries to direct man’s inherent religious energy to the substitutes offered by the government, whether it be in the Leader, the Party, the State, or Humanity itself.
But Distributism does the opposite. It believes in personal freedom and in de-centralizing political power into the lowest level possible. (Subsidiarity is one of the core principles of Distributist thought.) It also holds that private property—especially private productive property—is not evil in itself. But it needs to be widely distributed to as many as possible. In the practical sphere, that means breaking up the big conglomerates running and ruining our economy, as well as cutting the size and power of big government from the bottom-up.
Distributism vs. Capitalism
… Why do people insist on misunderstanding what we support and oppose? Why do folks believe we are against a “market economy”? It is because we have been indoctrinated in the belief that a “market economy” and a “capitalist economy” are one and the same.
But they aren’t.
In western and central Europe during the High Middle Ages, as Belloc notes in his classic book, The Servile State, the guilds regulated the markets and the crafts, while the Crown kept tabs on financial and legal matters. High quality of goods and services were protected and preserved, competition was allowed to flourish, but within certain boundaries. And under-girding all was the authority of the Church, vigilant in defending God-given rights and the good of souls in both government and marketplace.
But between the late Renaissance and the birth of the Protestant Reformation, all that began to change and for the worse. The Church found its authority weakened due to internal corruption and heresy, and a Protestant legal system ushered in by John Calvin enabled the kings and princes of northern Europe to seize the Church’s lands and enrich the powerful few. Usury, no longer condemned as a sin, became the legal norm, and the wise prohibitions against usury that once protected the lower classes were tossed aside as if they were filthy rags. Bankers and wealthy merchants took advantage of the chaotic times to worsen the lot of the workers, farmers and craftsmen.
As the centuries plodded on, the ancient restraints on the market and finance crumbled away. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the poor and the farmers were fed into the factories, working themselves into their graves. Such abuses were the stuff of Charles Dickens’ fiction that was clearly based on fact, since he himself was forced to work as a boy in such a factory. He wrote eloquently and heart-breakingly of those black years and the poverty and shame.
This state of affairs which would be called Capitalism would have its explainers and defenders, the primary one being Adam Smith and his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. In it, he posited an “invisible hand” that guided economies toward the good, believing that “enlightened self-interest” would keep any forces of chaos unleashed by this system in check. Chesterton thought otherwise when he wrote:
It was the mystical dogma of (Jeremy) Bentham and Adam Smith and the rest, that some of the worst of human passions would turn out to be all for the best. It was the mysterious doctrine that selfishness would do the work of unselfishness.
Such abuses and turmoil brought forth moral revulsion, which emerged in the reaction of Socialism. But since, like Capitalism, it believed in centralization of economic and political power, the cure it promoted for the ills it protested was worse than the disease. And since, like Capitalism, it had a materialistic core, it saw the religious and spiritual as a dangerous drug for the masses, an “opiate of the people” as the foul Karl Marx put it. Neither system prizes the common man owning his own means of earning a living, not depending on a wage paid either by big government or big business.
As Chesterton put it:
Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people’s property.
In Distributism, productive property is owned by the many, rather than the few. In practical terms, it means small business, co-operatives and worker-owned and managed businesses run the day-to-day workings of commerce. Big businesses are encouraged by government to break up into smaller, independent units. Government, in turn, is reduced in size and scale, with local government handling most of the responsibility thus eliminating the need for overregulation and reducing the size and scope of government, as well as the demand on taxpayers. Hence, a true market-based economy arises, one not plagued by the lust for dominance that infests both Capitalism and Socialism.
Distributism vs. Fascism
… The very term “Fascist,” like its counterpart “Bolshevist,” has almost lost its meaning, becoming an all-purpose insult used to stifle debate. But the ideology behind the insult still remains a constant temptation for men in power to concoct policies based on those of the Mussolini regime. Many hold that the Patriot Acts and the recently passed Real ID Card Act, mandating a national ID card for all citizens, have that same basis in such an ideology.
The average American probably believes that Fascism is “right wing,” but Libertarian columnist Ron Mexico – better known by his pen name “Vox Day” – has recently argued that this is a fallacy. He notes that the Fascists accepted all but two of the ten points comprising Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Further, both Mussolini and Hitler were more nationalist in their focus unlike their internationalist rivals, Lenin and Trotsky.
Other than these deviations, the essential core of Fascism is Socialism. For like their Communist rivals, the Fascists also believed in centralization of finance and transportation, state control over children’s education, progressive income tax, national government control over production and distribution of goods and services and so on.
Distributism, on the other hand, advocates subsidiarity, meaning decentralizing political and economic decisions to the lowest levels in society. That means the family, the neighborhood and city or town authorities. Or in modern lingo, running things from the bottom-up, rather than the top-down. Only when events get too big to handle does one turn to higher authorities, and even then, only for certain things, not for everything.
Furthermore, Distributism also believes in “class cooperation.” That is, the poor and middle classes pool their resources together to build up and strengthen the local economy and community. Hence, there is no need for state micromanagement of affairs nor for the dominance of big business or big finance. Neighbor helps neighbor for the sake of all, without – as Chesterton called them – “Hudge” and “Gudge” sticking their noses into things.
And like the Reds, the Fascists either tried to control religious authority or made up their own under state control. As William Shirer wrote in The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich, the Nazis set up their own “National Reich Church,” with the infamous Mein Kampf as their banal substitute for the Bible. And their ersatz messiah was their idea of the Nordic race as some collective divinity, come to rid the Earth of supposed “inferiors.”
Mussolini himself, in a 1925 speech, pronounced the maxim that has ever defined Fascism: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Thus it shares with Socialism and Communism the trait of making a “god” out of the national government. A “god” who, however, was endowed with the bloodthirsty traits of a Baal, Moloch or Quetzalcoatl. As Chesterton warned us in Christendom in Dublin, “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”
Distributism, by contrast, knows how to do something Fascism never could: reject every pretense to be a substitute “god.” It refuses to assimilate everything into itself, like the Borg of the later Star Trek sagas. It embraces humility and sane limits, which the Hobbits embodied in Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings. It rejects every pretension to become the reason for existence. It condemns the notion that an iron-fisted rule of race, class, party or ethnicity can enliven a society better than that of Our Father in Heaven and His guiding hand.
Articolul integral: AICI.