Friday, May 08, 2009

Am I a Distributist?

Have you ever had the experience of reading something that unexpectedly brought together in your mind a number of previously unrelated strands of thought and wove them into a coherent whole?

Such was my experience recently when reading Thomas Storck's introductory essay on the economic theory of distributism, a word interestingly that my spell checker does not recognise, but which, I predict, is likely to be read and written about with increasing frequency in the coming years.

Storck describes Distributism as "an economic system which encourages the widespread ownership of private productive property." If I have understood his essay correctly, Storck means by this a system by which the vast majority of the population own the means of production and use these means directly for the creation of socially useful, quality products and services as well as the creation of meaningful financial gain for themselves and their families.

Paradoxically, distributism challenges capitalism - with its tendencey to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few and its focus on employer-employee relations as the prime structure for facilitating income generation - by asserting the need for far greater numbers of (small) business owners. Ideally, in the distributionsit world, as many as possible would pursue individual owner-operated trades which intimitely link production with ownership. "Distributism therefore seeks to maintain a healthy relationship between ownership and production by maintaining and encouraging small businesses, small workshops, small farms in which the owner would always be personally involved in the actual production of the product or service....... Distributists seek to minimize the employer/employee relationship by making as many people as possible owners of their own productive enterprises."

Interest in the system, championed by GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in the early decades of the twentieth century, appears to be experiencing something of a resurrgance as groups and individuals think long and hard about the meaning of the obvious collapse of Western developed capitalism.

I'll share further thoughts in future posts as I continue this journey, so don't you go away now, you hear?

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