VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCEPope Francis needs distributism, argues Arthur W. Hunt III in the latest issue of The American Conservative. Hunt says that Americans and popes alike can embrace a humane alternative to modern capitalism:

In the midst of their scramble to claim the new Pope, many on the left missed what the Pontiff said was a nonsolution. The problems of the poor, he said, could not be solved by a “simple welfare mentality.” Well, by what then? The document is clear: “a better distribution of income.” And how might this be achieved? Through the “right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good,” to exercise some control against an “absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

The Pope called for a kinder and gentler capitalism. Admittedly, he did not provide many policy details other than, “We can no longer trust the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market … it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income.” It is that phrase, “distribution of income,” that struck fear into Palin and Limbaugh, and perhaps even Reno. It smacks of socialism—what Reno called the only and obvious alternative to capitalism. Reno briskly passed over any notion of a third solution, one many sons and daughters of Rome have rallied to for over a century.

The word distributism does not appear in the treatise, and nowhere does Francis fall back on his predecessors or Catholic intellectuals who have supported a third way of economic ordering. Nevertheless, policies that allow for the flourishing of smaller economic units while at the same time valuing work and broader property ownership are consistent with Catholic social teaching.

Despite not being Catholic myself, I found almost nothing in Hunt’s article all that objectionable. The only point of true disagreement is the claim that distributism is an alternative to either capitalism or socialism. Distributism is not an alternative at all, for distributism doesn’t actually exist.

Over the past hundred years there have been numerous explanations for why distributism is unrealistic and unworkable as a “third-way” alternative. Here are four that should suffice to point out why no one — whether a pope or plumber — needs distributism:

1. Distributism puts too much emphasis on physical property. – One of the key tenets of distributism is that property ownership should be extended to as many as possible. The seems rather unobjectionable until you consider that what they mean by “property” is the physical property that constitutes “means of production.” As The Distributist Review says,

The ‘means of production’ are the land, tools, and equipment needed for labor to transform raw materials into goods and services. As wealth (goods or services) is only possible by the combination of the means of production, labor, and raw materials, we believe it is best when these are owned cooperatively (worker-owned) or entirely operated by the family.

The irony is that the primary supporters of distributism are intellectuals (e.g., writers, academics, lawyers) who make their living based on their educations credentials rather than by use of “means of production.” These are people who have spent a significant portion of their lives earning advanced degrees rather than arable farmland or plumber’s tools.

While the global economy is moving to a service and knowledge-oriented model that is based on skills that can be carried around in one’s head, the distributist model prefers to transition back to the era when one needed land or a set of physical tools in order to make a living.

2. Even supporters of distributism are not distributist. – I’ve never meet a distributist that practiced distributism. You can read a lot of essays by college professors who endorse distributism, but you won’t find many (any other than Wendall Berry?) that have given up academia to push a plow or do any other labor that “transforms raw materials into goods and services.”

Some distributists will claim as examples of “functioning Distributist firms” the “thousands of home-based and employee-owned companies.” But what is the distinction between a “distributist firm” and a capitalist firm? Does “distributist firm” simply means a capitalist firm run by a person who calls themselves a distributist?

Also, most employee-owned and worker cooperative firms cannot truly be classified as distributist since the employees do not actually own the means of production. If you own property then when you leave you either get to take it with you or the remaining partners must pay you for your share of the business. That is not true for most worker co-ops. You are not an “owner” but a shareholder who gets a cut of the profits. That is profit-sharing, not distributism.

3. Distributism is a utopian scheme that has never been implemented anywhere in modern times. – The most common objection to distributism is that it is a utopian scheme. The reason this is the most common objection is because distributism has never really been tried anywhere. The only example distributists ever give — and good grief, they refer to it ad nauseam – is the Mondragon Corporation. The problem with using the Mondragon Corporation, a Spanish worker cooperative federation, as a model of distributism is that it does not fit the basic definition of a distributist firm.

Mondragon has 80,321 employees and annual revenues of 14.081 billion. The idea that individual workers are “owners” is a myth that even their employees don’t consider real. A third of their employees are not even members of the collective. And surveys have shown that relatively few workers in Mondragon firms consider themselves to be “owners” of the company. Most seem to agree with one worker who said, “I am the owner of my job. The only property I have is my job.” If the only “property” you own is your job, then you do not own property. You don’t even own your job as much as your job owns you.

4. There is no demand for distributism. – G.K. Chesterton, one of the founding fathers of distributism, quipped that, “The problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but not enough capitalists.” If that is a problem for capitalism, it is the fatal blow to distributism. The single biggest reason why distributism has not yet, nor ever will, become a mainstream “third way” is because relatively few people want to rely on their own private property to provide their income. Few people have the capacity, much less the willingness, to be self-sufficient capitalists in the mode that true distributism requires.

If pressed, I suspect many distributists would admit that for distributism to work you’d need to force it on people. The government would not only need to seize the means of production from the people who currently own capital, but force people who do not have any to take it and become self-sufficient. How this could possibly work in the real world is never explained. Even if gentle Pope Francis were to advocate such draconian measures it’s unlikely anyone would rush to implement such an unpopular plan.

Fortunately, most distributists aren’t advocating for their schemes be implemented by the State at gunpoint. They tend to be mostly genial, thoroughly non-threating advocates for an unrealistic form or economics. Like Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, and other form of fantasy role-playing, their hobby is mostly harmless. It would be petty to begrudge them their innocuous avocation — at least it would be if it wasn’t for the fact that we need their help.

As David Deavel has explained, there are a number of areas in which distributists offer some wisdom: 1) objections to the divorce of economics and ethics, 2) objections to the collusion of large business and government and the resultant concentration of power, 3) advocacy for entrepreneurism and widely distributed wealth, and 4) objections to the welfare state and its effects on the citizen’s relationship to government.

Distributists have much in common with those of here at the Acton Institute. We share those concerns as well as the distributist’s focus on encouraging subsidiarity, self-sufficiency, and entrepreneurship. We could use their enthusiasm and brainpower to develop and advocate for real change within the current economic system. We should be allies — or at least co-belligerents — working toward the same goals.

But that would require distributists to give up their adherence to building a fantasy world on some Tolkienesque shire and join us in engaging in the messy, fallen realm of the real world. Do they have any genuine interest in actually changing the current economic situation? Are they willing to make the necessary compromises and sacrifices in ideology to create a world that is more in line with Christian social thought? Can they be satisfied accept proximate justice within the realm of work and economics?

If so, then we need to set aside our differences and find a way to work together for the common good.

Beyond Distributism

Beyond Distributism

Distributism, a program that traces its popularity to Catholic writers Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, promotes the widespread ownership of property by tempering the market with guilds or similar associations. By its nature, distributism must invoke the power of the state, a dangerous move that ultimately undermines its own objectives. Economic freedom in a market system, Thomas Woods advises, is a context more conducive to justice and human flourishing.

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  • Johann Gralog

    We should be allies, that is why this blog post mocks distributism based on a very limited understanding of it. Right. A fantasy world on some Tolkienesque shire? It’s just as easy to say that the Acton lives in a fantasy world which pastes some vague Christian morals on Galt’s Gulch. Same kind of jeer, though I do not mean mine seriously.

    Distributists abandoning their ideology, that is what setting aside our differences consists and working together consists of? Is this hostile, ill-informed piece (and I’m sure you’d think the same of distributist writings criticizing capitalism, fair enough) the method through which we become allies? Of course, I invite Mr. Carter to give up is adherence to capitalism and begin working for the common good. That last sentence must have been quite convincing, no?

    Sure, there are issues which overlap, but on other issues distributism is closer to Free-Market Anti-Capitalism. Why oughtn’t we join them instead? From where the thought that distributists don’t compromise or sacrifice? Perhaps we think that Chesterton’s quote is applicable here: “Compromise used to mean that half a
    loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to
    mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.”

    The first and second point operate from a false premise, based on an incorrect reading of a single website. The third point is applicable to the views espoused by the Acton Institute as well, considering the secularization of our modern times. Point four yet again works from a false premise, and begins the creation of the straw man.

  • Bonchamps

    Yeah… I agree with the critique of Distributism (for the most part), but you don’t propose alliances with condescension and mockery. Christopher Ferrara did the same thing in his book attacking libertarianism and laissez-faire capitalism – “we might need to work together some day, but in the meantime let me tell how about how horrible, cruel, and anti-Christ those laissez-faire libertarians are.”

    • MiddleAgedKen

      Excellent point — I have lost count of how many arguments I have seen from people who appear to think you can sneer someone to your point of view.

  • Stu

    This article comes across as desperate.

  • Bill Hickman

    “If pressed, I suspect many distributists would admit that for distributism to work you’d need to force it on people. The government would not only need to seize the means of production from the people who currently own capital, but force people who do not have any to take it and become self-sufficient.”

    “Fortunately, most distributists aren’t advocating for their schemes be implemented by the State at gunpoint.”

    Do you think capitalism is not forced on people by the state? How do you suppose capitalists came to own the means of production in the first place?

    • MiddleAgedKen

      If memory serves, Albert Jay Nock said something of the sort in Our Enemy, the State, pointing out that no individual could have controlled tracts of land amounting to hundreds of thousands of acres without the intervention of the state (the crown grants in the colonial era).

  • Andromedus

    “Despite not being Catholic myself…”

    That’s about where you lost me.

    I’ve been an avid student of many schools of economic thought during my own search for truth. The most profound and inspirational I have found is by far that of distributism. Distributism itself doesn’t actually proscribe much in terms of laws and regulation. There is a great deal left up to the interpretation of those living within it in the spirit of subsidiarity, which allows local governments to discern what level of regulation they wish to have without imposing it on neighboring communities. Of course this characteristic is found in other forms of government as well, so this characteristic isn’t necessarily unique or even defining. What is more defining is distributism’s vision of the family as the smallest economic unit to consider when forming social policy, because it is the smallest unit capable of replacing itself. The “stork model of human replacement” found in other economic schools is more in line with the fairy-land of ogres and dragons than anything distributism conjures up. In fact, it is in ignoring policies’ impact on the integrity of the family unit that we find westernized nations tumbling backwards. Yet another more defining characteristic is the limitation of the accumulation of productive capital (productive being the operative word) into the hands of the few. This is anti-capitalist but it is not anti-property, nor is it even anti-wealth. In capitalism there is a pervasive distortion wherein every conceivable item of any use at all can be construed to be productive property through the implementation of rent. The end result is that, as capital naturally accumulates in a limited space (the planet being one such space) all property – regardless of function – tends to accumulate into a few hands. This enables a few capitalists to introduce artificial scarcities into the market, scarcities that may include shelter, clothing, food, and even currency and money itself. These scarcities become tools of social unrest and ultimately societal control. Distributism seeks to enable individual families and communities to isolate themselves from such despotic behavior as well as from the certainties of periodic global economic shock (due generally to the faltering of the economic models of other nations).
    There is far too much to be said in a space such as this, but I urge anyone interested in learning more about distributism to read Belloc’s “Economics for Helen.”

  • Ed Hamilton

    Joe, I don’t think you understand what Chesterton meant when he said “The problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but not enough capitalists”. He means that you would have distributism if you had widely distributed capital (and that’s the key to a more economically just society). And to touch on another point you make about no distributists practice distributism: but everyone practices it. Capital and property are meant to be in the hand of those that need it so they can take care of their own necessities. So if we do, we take better care of the property we own, we work more dilligently (and even with love) since we are doing so in direct benefit of our family. So if you go home tonight and spend money on your own household, you are being distributist. If someone steals that money you needed, they are being anti-distributist Finally, we need distributism of some form because distributism means getting into the hands of a family the very thing that they need to sustain themselves. That will be my last point because as you already can see, if I am correct, then distributism can’t be utopian because it already exists. Funny, isn’t it: we just need more capitalists to be better off (i.e. to make the world better distributists)!

    • James A.

      You have understood the concept :)

  • Ed Hamilton

    The answer would have to be in disallowing the tendency for capitalism to degrade into something less capitalist: monopolizing. But simply because we can’t see beyond government intervention as a viable answer to making for more visible distributist structure, doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to make distributism work more widely or that we shouldn’t work toward such a goal.

    • James A.

      How about spelling things out and saying that an unchecked or un-separated system can lead to a “merger” between state and business?

      Whoops, isn’t that one component of one nasty ideology that was at work within the last war?

  • James A.

    Joe Carter: “3. Distributism is a utopian scheme that has never been implemented anywhere in modern times.”

    Yes and no. The following might surprise you.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism
    http://www.hsnsw.asn.au/Distributism.html

    ” *third way* economics ”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy

    “The social market economy was designed to be a *third way* between laissez-faire *economic* liberalism and socialist economics. It was strongly inspired by ordoliberalism, social democratic ideas, and the tradition of Catholic social teaching or, more generally, Christian ethics.”

    • http://www.acton.org/ John Couretas

      Excerpt: Vaclav Klaus in Third Way, No Way?

      The disillusion with communism on the one hand and the popularity of
      Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s policies on the other made it
      impossible to openly advocate obsolete socialist dreams, fallacies and
      old-fashioned remedies of contemporary economic and social problems. The
      situation called for a new product or, what is usually better and
      easier, for an old product in a new packing. In this respect, the Third Way of the 1990’s is no more than a new attempt to save socialism, social-democratism and welfare state. There are only two “ways” in human society and I belong to those who are convinced that the so-called third way is an euphemistic and dangerously misleading name for the second way – for socialism.

      The current version of “thirdwayism” does not give us any new, single
      “Big Idea”, it is, in its synergy, dangerous collection of small and
      certainly old and notorious ideas. Therefore, all our old arguments
      against socialism, corporativism, technocratism, social engineering,
      elitism, etatism, interventionism, etc. have again become relevant.

      The Third Way remains a very vague, fuzzy and unstable concept. It
      has no operational definition, as it has never been properly defined.
      Such a defect hinders any serious discussion but, unfortunately, it does
      not prevent its use and popularity, and it does not undermine the
      promises it contains.

      http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/1186

      • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

        Third way proponents are ignorant enough to think they can choose the best of both systems, but the reality is always that they choose the worst of both. Our current medical system is a perfect example. The state controls every aspect but the price. As a result we have a limited supply of healthcare with unlimited supply. Since prices are somewhat free, the price have gone into the stratosphere.

        • James A.
        • James A.

          Roger,

          The state has a monopoly on law and regulation?

          So how will an individual benefit from the services of a profit-seeking entity if that same entity decides to jack up prices beyond the acceptable?

          Martin Shkreli for example did what he did because he was allowed to.

          On the other hand, public healthcare is like writing a blank cheque with abuses of public spending money going unchecked?

          Isn’t that kind of spelling out a “third way” that can ditch the bad sides of both purely public and private entities :) ?

          • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

            The answer should be obvious. No business can jack up prices in a free market because competitors will kill his business. Shkreli could do what he did only because there is no free market in pharma. State granted patents and FDA regs that favor oligopolies prevented him having any competition.

            Nations have aimed for the golden “third way” for 150 years, but all they get is the worst of both.

          • James A.

            Ok.

            So what is the ideal? Free markets combined with healthy competition?

            Note that we have none of either.

            We have seemingly “freer” markets here and there but there’s an immense concentration of ownership (not necessarily equating to control) at world level which spells out a lack of competition.

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/10/22/the-147-companies-that-control-everything/

            Is easy access to markets sufficient to form a counter-power in terms of having balanced competition and the absence of price fixing?

            Keep in mind the end goal you are seeking here.

            In the case of Martin Shkreli are you saying that patents themselves are an issue or there was a form of collusion taking place?

            This is interesting because although the article here paints flaws in distributist thought the concerns you’ve detailed seem to partially align with distributist views.

            “the means of production should be spread as widely as possible, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (state socialism), a few individuals (plutocracy), or corporations (corporatocracy).”

            htps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

            This is not so much a question of economics than a balance of power because events within the system can curb individual freedom and behaviour in a way that could be seen as an indirect form of government.

            As for the “third way” isn’t this what brought about the illiberal “neoliberalism” in attempting to have both free markets mixed in with interventionism?

            Mixed economies in themselves may be flawed and it may not be possible to have the “best of both worlds”.

            However, that would not exclude pointing out flaws in existing proven approaches to make something more humane.

      • James A.

        I see one reply disappeared. Good. It means it made the reader think :)

      • James A.

        Not exactly a source that people appreciate but this is what an IMF study has had to say about “neoliberalism”.

        “The policies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in the US and Margaret Thatcher in the UK are often held up as the gold standard of neoliberalism at work.

        But now it seems some at the IMF aren’t so sure this tradition is all it’s been cracked up to be. In their paper, Ostray, Loungani, and Furceri argue that these goals have both hampered the economic growth that neoliberalism champions and exacerbated the rise of inequality.”

        http://uk.businessinsider.com/imf-neoliberalism-warnings-2016-5

    • http://www.acton.org/ John Couretas

      On the social market economy, these Acton authors are highly recommended:

      The New Totalitarian Temptation by Todd Huizinga
      http://shop.acton.org/the-new-totalitarian-temptation.html

      Becoming Europe by Samuel Gregg
      http://shop.acton.org/becoming-europe.html

  • http://www.acton.org/ John Couretas

    Exactly how would distributism solve this problem?

    • James A.

      It won’t as it’s partially out of the hands of citizens.

      The reply was with respect to the books about the situation in Europe.

      Am still not clear on distributism and it seems it may have some dark sides according to some sources.

      However, the Wikipedia page is very clear about thinkers being wary of extremes of both government and the private sector. This is apparently where anti-trust laws come from.

      As much as classical liberals invoke some kind of law saying that “inequalities” are natural the current statistical distributions of wealth and other indications are not.

      It should be apparent to anyone critically-minded that a gap and void is the result of privileges accessible to the one individual and not the other.

    • James A.

      The reply was with respect to books about Europe and it won’t as the situation is partially out of citizen’s hands.

      Am still not clear on distributism and it appears to have dark sides according to some sources but the Wikipedia page does say something along the lines that it’s thinkers were both wary of government and the private sector. This is apparently where current anti-trust laws come from.

      Now, I’m aware that some people consider that “inequalities” are natural but the current statistical distributions indicate something that goes beyond a Pareto. This could indicate that there factors are work in the economy that tip the balance.

  • James A.

    “3. Distributism is a utopian scheme that has never been implemented anywhere in modern times.”

    Classical liberalism has never been implemented anywhere in modern times.

    You can ask the classical liberals in Europe and the libertarians in the USA.

    What makes an ideology utopian? That is a good question.

    • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

      Not true. Classical liberalism was the system of the Dutch Republic in the 17th and 18th centuries and of the UK and US in the 18th and 19th centuries. Socialism has been tried in all of Europe and Asia since 1918. The historical results are very clear.

      • James A.

        It depends on what you call modern times.

        What needs did classical liberalism meet in the Netherlands, UK and US during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries?

        Why did socialism emerge in 1918? What needs did its proponents feel as going unanswered?

        What other events were taking place? What transformations was society undergoing?

        Did any ideology or combination of ideologies have a role to play in the 1920s, the Great Depression and the last world war?

        What ideologies or influences took hold following the war?

        What justified the economic changes in the early 80s?

        What has gone wrong since the late 90s and 2000?

        • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

          Answers to your questions would require a book. I suggest Deirdre McCloskey’s series on bourgeois virtues. But here are some quick answers. The shortest answer is in Helmut Schoeck’s “Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior.” In short, envy drives the creation of institutions. Envy kept mankind starvation poor until 1600. Economic historians have shown that standards of living in 1600 were the same as 10,000 BC. There was no improvement in standards of living for most of human history.

          Christianity managed to suppress envy enough by 1600 to allow individualism to flourish and economic growth began for the first time in all of human history. Since then standards of living in the West have grown by 30 fold. Japan followed then the “tigers” of Asia and finally China.

          The need that classical liberalism met in the 17th through 19th centuries was the suppression of envy and providing respect for business and property. Socialism emerged in the 18th century because people abandoned Christianity for atheism. That caused envy to explode. Envy is the power behind socialism.

          • James A.

            Do you mean envy in the sense of an emotion?

            So is the theory that envy within the masses maintained some status quo that prevented progress in terms of living conditions?

            Also, you’re saying that socialism is fuelled by envy. Would this mean it could lead a dragging down in terms of the standard of living?

            What is the connection between increased individualism and economic growth?

          • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

            Envy is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. It’s an emotion, but it’s also a strong bent in human nature.

            Yeah, Schoeck’s main thesis is that envy prevented development.

            Yes, socialism is not only a revival of envy, it elevates envy to a virtue by defining it as as justice.

            Envy suppresses individualism so that no one can do better than anyone else. So if an individual has a better idea that would benefit everyone but him more than any other individual he won’t pursue it. Economic development requires that those with superior entrepreneurial skills benefit from them.

          • James A.

            This is an interesting angle and I’m going to read more into it.

            Some kind of envy would bring down development if someone is the focus of that envy and prevented from doing something. Or if that someone maintains a self check due to being wary of the envy of others.

            Note that the word envy might come from the French word “envie” which has a positive connotation in simply wanting or desiring as one might want ice cream.

            Here we are talking about want about something someone else has, or jealousy.

            Jealousy can include suspicion, resentment and even hatred (morbid jealousy being considered as a psychological disorder) and this is where envy fits in as perhaps proximate in meaning to the latin invidere.

            Anyway, I don’t think envy (subjective) and justice (objective) can be confused unless a person is doing the confusing themselves.

            As you can see from this photo of a protester they are not displaying envy at more well-off people but does seem unhappy that government is being interfered with.

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CMyH5kZWsAAZoYy.jpg

            This corresponds with the sense of fairness that all primates have.

            A situation perceived as unfair could possibly give rise to resentment but not so much out of envy of that something another person has but in terms of treatment for equivalent efforts or in terms of a transaction with that same person.

            So the distinction here would be balance within what is considered as acceptable by a person and not one person comparing themselves to another.

            It probably goes with the moral education a person has received.

            Also, it would be highly contradictory for someone to be both a fan of an individual, like Bill Gates or some sports star, and envious at the same time.

            I think it’s more egalitarianism in ideological terms that could drag an individual down if they are in a society that enforces it.

            Note that the dragging down can exist in our society to some degree without socialism. People that have had it rough getting to where they are will expect others to go through the same hops (or worse?), sometimes even if it isn’t unnecessary.

            That is perhaps why millennials are sometimes spoken of as being entitled due to perhaps being raised with false expectations.

            I had a discussion about this with someone a while ago and the end conclusion was that younger people should not be educated in the same way so as to avoid falling in the same traps.

            In fact, the subject of education ties in with these superior entrepreneurial skills you mention. If economic development is good then why on Earth isn’t entrepreneurship taught at an early age? Wouldn’t an army of entrepreneurs be desirable in the current economic turmoil?

            Sadly this may have to do with a claim that the approach to education carries vestiges of the Prussian system which would have only been interested in outputting “drones” for a war state which would be the employees and passive consumers of today.

          • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

            Schoeck spends the first part of his book, “Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior,” examining the historical definition of envy. Until WWII, most people had a clear idea of envy. Since then we have tried to expunge it or make it funny and harmless, like telling people who have something we admire that we “envy” them.

            Envy is a twin of covetousness, but the envious person doesn’t want what the other person has. He is mean and just wants to hurt the other. A good example is an old East European story about an old man whom an angel visited and wanted to reward. The angel asked the old peasant what he wanted. The peasant thought for a minute and said, “Well my neighbor has a goat.” The angels said, “So you would like me to give you a goat?” “No,” the peasant said. “I want you to kill my neighbor’s goat!”

            The peasant didn’t want a goat because he feared being the object of envy others. Socialists don’t care about the poor. They merely want to destroy the wealthy. If they cared about the poor they wouldn’t hold up Cuba and Venezuela as examples of perfect societies.

            Socialists don’t want to build anything. They merely want to destroy those who do better than them. They call it “justice.”

            The odd thing is how they tolerate their leaders who have enormous wealth. Schoeck explains it as 1) people allow their elite to be extraordinarily wealthy because they are the elite and leading the rest to the good life. And they need that money for their work. 2) People envy only those they consider in their “class.” They don’t envy those who are so far above them, such as nobility, that they consider them in a different class.

            Of course, maintaining strict egalitarianism requires the state using some pretty brutal methods. That’s why socialist countries are very violent against their people.

          • James A.

            Thinking about things now, the fall of the Roman Empire would have been followed by a period of decline in Europe.

            One could say that Christianity contributed to future change with for example the preservation of knowledge through copying done by monastic scribes.

            The story of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) indicates that the Christian establishment was hostile to anything seen as challenging dogma.

            However, the turnabout would have been at about that time through the Renaissance and the later Age of Enlightenment.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

          • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

            You ought to check out Rodney Stark’s books on the history of the West, “Victory of Reason” and “How the West Won.” He’s a Baylor history prof. He shows that the fall of Rome was the best thing to happen to Europe and that the idea of a dark age after the fall was a myth fabricated by atheists. He says most historians today refer to the dark ages as a myth. He has an interesting chapter on Galileo, too, showing that the debate was not about science but Galileo’s betrayal of his friend the Pope.

  • Joel V. Peddle

    The apparent goal of the author is to ridicule a theory with a host of first principles that should be observed. If the following “offer some wisdom”, why not help the distributists with a plan that doesn’t involve forced state aggression:

    “As David Deavel has explained, there are a number of areas in which distributists offer some wisdom: 1) objections to the divorce of economics and ethics, 2) objections to the collusion of large business and government and the resultant concentration of power, 3) advocacy for entrepreneurism and widely distributed wealth, and 4) objections to the welfare state and its effects on the citizen’s relationship to government.

    Distributists have much in common with those of here at the Acton Institute. We share those concerns as well as the distributist’s focus on encouraging subsidiarity, self-sufficiency, and entrepreneurship. We could use their enthusiasm and brainpower to develop and advocate for real change within the current economic system. We should be allies — or at least co-belligerents — working toward the same goals.”