July 30, 2013 By Jack Jodell.
“The needs of the many far outweigh the wants of the few.”
– Star Trek’s Mr. Spock –
It is undeniable to all fair-minded, thinking persons that our current form of welfare-state capitalism has proven itself to be horribly inadequate for the needs of the majority of its citizens; has greatly favored the wealthiest mere 1% at the expense of the majority 99% below them; and has been viciously neglectful toward the very real needs of the poorest of those in our midst. It is inexcusable for wealthy bankers and corporate CEOs to lavish themselves with record-high compensation packages and bonuses rather than making readily available, badly-needed funds which they alone control or influence, unable to be had by smaller banks for purposes of starting new, job-creating businesses. If this is “capitalism”, then let me the hell out!
With the rich continually getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and with the middle class shrinking due to rising costs and stagnant or dropping wages, and with the overwhelming majority of the gains made from record productivity increases going almost exclusively to the very wealthiest members of our society, it is abundantly clear that some form of drastic change is definitely needed, and SOON! This nonsense about “free market economics” is a MYTH: the only “freedom” it offers is for the business owner, and certainly NOT for the laborer or the consumer!
As I discussed in part one, this unpleasant state of affairs was anticipated in the late 19th century, over 100 years ago. Oddly enough, it was Roman Catholic prelates like Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI, together with Catholic writers and philosophers like G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc who advocated the creation of a third way, different from communism or socialism on one hand and capitalism on the other, to provide distributive justice for the people (workers) whose labor actually produced the wealth that the wealthy greedily grabbed and kept for themselves. They called this alternative to communism and capitalism
Distributism differs from cpmmunism and socialism in that it allows for the existence of private property and private ownership. whereas those other two allow only collective or state-run ownership. It differs from modern-day capitalism in that it calls for the private ownership of productive capacities to be in as many hands as possible, rather than in just one person’s or a corporate board of directors’ hands. It advocates a far more equal distribution of productive wealth than we see today. It also encourages patronizing and developing smaller, local businesses rather than the larger, multinational corporate variety whenever possible (i.e. whatever can be produced by a smaller unit should not be done by a larger one). We have already begun heading in this direction, with the noticable increases in co-ops and credit unions, both of which are far more responsive to local wants and needs than huge grocery chains or giant banks are. Pope Leo XIII stated that all charitable work should be centered in the Catholic Church rather than be concentrated elsewhere. I disagree, and maintain that programs like food stamps, general assistance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. should continue to be run and administered by the government, ESPECIALLY during this age of ever-rising costs and continually-dwindling enrollment and participation in the Catholic church. Not only that, but the undesirable way the institution of the Church mishandled its problem with pedophiliac ptiests makes me uneasy about the prospect of them being the sole distributors of charitable funds for the needy.
Distributism has many critics. Some refer to it as being utopian, and I suspect they are arguing from a complacent, uncaring position of comfort they don’t wish to see changed. Others are diehard capitalists, many of whom I suspect are idealistic wannabe petite-bourgeosie, who naively believe they will one day become fabulously wealthy themselves and want no interference on their way to getting there. Others ridicule its preference for smaller over bigger or for local over multinational. Regardless, the many successful worker-cooperatives found in Italy’s Emilio Romagna region or Spain’s Mondragon prove that distributism is not a silly pipe dream and does, in fact, have some merit!
I do not view distributism as a be-all and end-all solution for our economic problems. But I DO believe it, or a least some hybrid form of it, is worth our study and possibly even omplementation as an antidote to the ungodly economic mess we find ourselves in presently. We are being smothered with corporate excess commercialism and our government and business community has been devoured by self-interest and greed. As a result, government efficiency has plummeted and dissolved into a murky sea of dysfunction. Meanwhile, our productive capacity is not being fully or properly utilized; our bridges, roads, and electronic infrastructure are crumbling daily; and the rich just keep getting richer and are doing little to justifiably earn their riches. It is simply unsustainable, and must NOT last any longer!
Ever since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, conservatives have pushed us to view government with suspicion and to think of ourselves rather than others, golden rule be damned. We can no longer afford to be so ignorantly apathetic. I note that, only a few days ago, Pope Francis exhorted 3 MILLION young Catholics on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to end selfish behavior and to pursue social justice. This was a refreshing departure from the kind of attempting-to-legislate-morality messages the Vatican has been engaged in for the past 40 years, and I welcome and support it. Perhaps one way we can begin to implement more social justice is by adopting several of the principles of distributism into our economic practice. It would sure go a long way toward ending our horrible wealth disparity and achieving economic justice, and I would support that 100%! For further reading on distributism, Google The Distributist Review and read its many fine articles.
UP NEXT: “AMERICA’S NEW CONCENTRATION CAMPS!”