Saturday, December 11, 2010


Go over to Commentarius de Prognosticis and read Ioannes' post called "Spreading the Wealth". It involves an article from Dr. Jerry Pournelle's website addressing the economic ideas behind Distributism, a system based on property rights, capitalism, subsidiarity and making sure that the means of production and the majority of wealth are not accumulated by the few. Many call it "The Third Way".

This is the system that the Catholic Church endorses as the most just means of creating the greatest amount of freedom and wealth. It truly does walk the line right down the middle between statism and unbridled capitalism.

For more information about Distributism go to
The Distributist Review.


  1. Tom, I've read Paul's blog on this subject. I'm going to show my ignorance and ask, "How would distributism look to the average American?"


  2. Hey Carolyn,

    Distributism would look a good deal like the economic system of 100 years ago, at least to the normal person. Most of the businesses would be of a mom and pop variety. Economies would be much more locally centered.

    The central idea of Distributism is that the means of production and wealth should be distributed across the spectrum, not by government fiat or re-distribution but by making sure that opportunity exists for all. Property rights and truly free and open markets are key to this.

    The role of the government in this is to make sure that no individual or corporation becomes so powerful that it can distort the market to it own advantage. Subsidiarity is vital, the idea that all solutions should come from the bottom and only move up when no other answer can be found. This is a Biblical concept most clearly found in Matthew 18:15-17:

    But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.

    And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.

    And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

    Distributism would allow us all to do as well as we want to or can do. There would still be some that are poor and some that are rich but the difference between them probably wouldn't be as extreme as they are today because the wealthy wouldn't be able to manipulate the system to their advantage and bury the rest of us. My guess is that we would have a vibrant middle class as the main feature of the system.

    We would still have the booms and busts that are part and parcel of a capitalist system but because the market isn't manipulated they should, as they always did before the Federal Reserve and the New Deal, be over relatively quickly.

    And, if the means of production and the wealth are more broadly distributed it should be easier to get back on our feet again.

    Distributism would require a strong moral foundation in both individuals and the government. The normal, disordered human impulse to succeed regardless of the effects on others would have to be controlled, hopefully by individual moral restraint but if not, by enforcement of that restraint by the government.

    When you get right down to it, Distributism is an awful lot like what the Founders envisioned, though it seems we have never been able to live up to it.