Although not yet a fully paid-up convert to the economic theory of distributism, which I introduced in a previous post, the system does have the advantage of combining in my mind a number of previously disparate strands of thought which have exercised me over the years.
Among these have included:
Among these have included:
- a decentralised approach to life. My observation is that both the centralised planned economies of twentieth century socialism and the emergence of multi-national corporations over the last fifty years have tended to produce powerful oligrachies that end to reduce democratic actvity whil claiming to preserve it. Decentralism affirms both the ability and the naturalness of individuals taking actions that they percieve to be in their best interests without the stuperfying levels of management and bureaucracy that typify centralised organisations
- an emphasis on small scale business. Whatever our views about the causes and origins of the current financial collapse, there can be little doubt that the sheer scale of the institutions at the heart of it was a significant factor in their downfall. This was also a factor in their ability to hold nation states hostage with dire threats of the damage that their collapse would do to the economy as a whole if they were not rescued by those same states
- an emphasis on localism. Ever since reading Nick Spencer's essay Where do we go From Here? I have been convinced of the social, personal and environmental benefits of geographical rootedness. Much current environmental thinking - from issues as apparently diverse as transport, leisure, energy production and food - emphasies the ecological benefits of "acting locally". Although distributism did not arise historically from an explicit environmental agenda, many of its conclusions are compatible with the emphasis on localism that informs much current, progressive environmental thought.
- an emphasis on self employment. For whatever reason, I have always fouind the idea of working for myself, which I am currently doing, far more satisfactory an arrangement than being employed by another person, this latter arrangement appearing to me (personally) as merely a step up from servitude.
- its origins in a Christian worldview. The early distributionists were Roman Catholic thinkers and, although not a Catholic myself, I do identify with some of the ethical views that underpin distributism. These include an affirmation of the dignity and social usefulness of work, an acceptance of the legitimacy of private ownership, a rejection of the capitalist pursuit of excessive (or "artificial" wealth) and a recognition (contra classic marxism) that mankind is a spiritual being not merely a materialistic entity.
In essence, I can see how distributism (defined as the widespread ownership of private productive property) contains emphases that can be found in theoretical aspects of capitalism - its emphasis on private property and individual freedoms, for instance - as well as in socialist thought - its demand for structural economic change that takes away the means of production from "the few" and gives it to "the many". Time will tell whether distributism is robust enough to be sucessfully implemented against the backdrop of the powerful vested interests that currently pull the strings of the global economy.
I guess there's only one way to find out.....
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