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Ross Arlen Tieken

@RossArlenTieken

Sep 23

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Distributism is often vaunted as a “third way,” a path between capitalism and socialism. Adherents often flock from both “sides,” hoping to correct the extremes. But this migration tends to view distributism as a gentler capitalism or soft socialism. This is not correct.

The distributist economy—or as Allen Tate called it, the Traditional economy—is a balanced, stable economy. No artificial statecraft is required to maintain. Distributism itself, as a body of simple principles, is merely a response to the abuses of the bourgeois revolution.

It sets itself against economic colonialism, chattel slavery, and usury. It is simply a statement that the ways that our peoples deal with money, goods, and labor should serve human dignity and the general welfare; the Common Good—a phrase almost destroyed by utilitarianism.

Our economies (communist, socialist, corporatist, capitalist, industrial, financial, technocratic) do not serve the Common Good. Most of us agree with this, so I will not elaborate on this point. People are searching for alternatives. But the source of the problem gets ignored.

All post-Enlightenment economies, none of which are satisfying or stable, emerge from one governmental and cultural substrate: the Bourgeois Bureaucratic State. This is no surprise, but in order to implement any economic abstraction, a massive bureaucracy is required.

The arguments in FAVOR of the bureaucratic, middle-class, centralized economy abound. All modern conveniences emerge from industrial societies. The hockey stick graph raises a specter in our minds. But many ask: “what did we sacrifice for this phone, these lightbulbs, this drug?”

So what role does Distributism play in our modern lives? Is it a philosophy for crank farmers and disaffected socialists? Or can it actually respond intelligently and powerfully to the economic abuses that we have come to accept as normative?

Distributism is a call to build a traditional economy OUTSIDE the State’s bureaucracy. But that attracts accusations of communes, elitism, obscurantism, Puritanism, and anarchism. How do we respond to these challenges, and address the question: what do we do with the State?

More poignantly, we must address the fact that distributism since Chesterton has been rife with advice to farmers and workers, the main victims of abstract economies. But there is room in a distributist approach to address the needs of the elite, who have suffered too.

Their taste and dignity has been undermined; the noblesse oblige has been destroyed by an all-consuming, middle-class clutching. They are without purpose or place, they are merely rich beyond anyone. They pursue nothing but vanity projects and ideological games.

They are not the descendents of the Lords, they are the descendents of Robespierre and Hamilton, of Cromwell and Lincoln. They are tasteless, formless, stateless, unmannerly technocrats and citizens-of-the-world. The loss of the true upper class is a cultural disaster.

Distributists sometimes conveniently ignore the existence of the Pareto principle, the persistence of hereditary wealth, the concentration of patronage, the benefits of meritocracy, and the natural desire of some farmboys to paint and write rather than plough and weed.

The pyramids were built on the backs of slaves, it is true. The Cathedrals were extracted from peasants (though willingly given, if the evidence serves us). And the Sistine Chapel was funded by a corrupt papacy. But these things are not without value.

The challenge for modern distributists is not to destroy hierarchy or wealth concentration; but to restore the NATURAL amity between NATURAL classes; to ensure that both the lowliest farmhand and the most wealthy landlord have their place, their dignity, and their morals intact.

We can only do this if we disavow the rapacious bureaucratic State, if we sneer at “efficiency,” if we block every government-sponsored exploitation of both the self-sustaining poor AND the highly productive wealthy.

The State serves one purpose: that is to open, maintain, and defend social spaces in which individuals and communities may freely pursue Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. This is the only mechanism by which the State can promote the Common Good.

Any “distributism” that desires everyone to have a roughly equal share of productive property, administered by… whom?… is Jeffersonian and Socialist and is not distributism.

Any “distributism” that is uncomfortable with calling itself Catholic, Christian, and based in the Church’s teaching on the Kingship of Christ and our Stewardship of the Land, is secular and ideology and is not distributism.

Any “distributism” which does not take into account basic economic and social realities (which means rejecting modern social [pseudo]science) is Utopian and spurious and is not distributism.

And before I get a hundred comments telling me I’m not the gatekeeper of Distributism, that I’m a nobody…yes I know. Feel free to misuse it. But I refuse to.

Ross Arlen Tieken

@RossArlenTieken

Writer, Teacher, Son of Texas. Substack: https://t.co/M8eIG2mOsH

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