Essay part 1 of 3
“The natural defense of Freedom is the Home, and the natural defense of the Home is the Homestead. The Family, not the Individual, is the unit of the nation. As Political Economy is the child of Domestic Economy, all laws that weaken the Home weaken the nation.”
These are the words of an Irish-born English Dominican Friar named Vincent McNabb. Fr. McNabb lived and preached in the first half of the last century and is the principal inspiration of an economic theory, more of an aspiration, called Distributism. Fr. McNabb was a true ascetic; he refused to ride in cars, wore only hand-made hob-nailed boots and a hand spun religious habit, never slept in a bed or sat in a chair. He was something of a national figure at the time and was famous for his preaching in the Hyde Park speaker’s corner. Today, he’d be a crank or more likely a 'prepper'.
Admittedly, Distributism is an unfortunate name. It sounds a little like a variant of socialism but the idea is simple; property ownership is a fundamental right and societies comprised of owners are the most harmonious. Capital should be as widely distributed as possible and central political power is to be avoided; sounds almost Jeffersonian doesn’t it? Unlike socialism, property is to be owned by private citizens. Unlike capitalism, private property is to be owned by as many individuals as possible and not concentrated in a few individuals or organizations. While I certainly agree that capitalism is vastly superior to socialism (which always ends up consuming its people literally and figuratively) the capitalism we are experiencing right now seems more like a plutocracy. So, distributism is something of a middle ground between socialism - in which the state feeds upon its people - and capitalism - in which people feed upon each other.
"So distributism is something of a middle ground between socialism - in which the state feeds upon its people - and capitalism - in which people feed upon each other."
It should almost go without saying that a Distributist is an independent individual. His or her ideal habit would be a self-sustainable homestead in which he was free to feed himself and his family and pursue whatever other passions and interests his time and talent allow. Fr. McNabb’s day, like ours, was a time of economic change. The industrial revolution of the mid-1800s destroyed the cottage industries in which most Englishmen lived and worked. Company’s called men from their farms and shops to work for wages and buy their livelihood. But what was lost? For the first time, perhaps in human history, the interests of the family with married men and women raising children were at odds with economic interests. In other words, family life, that most basic building block of a civil society, was no longer compatible with economic production. No more farming and shop keeping and ownership of the means to a livelihood; wage earners gave their time and sweat and lives for money and bought their food, clothing, and necessities. Children, an abundance of which was universally considered an asset in all history and cultures, now became another tenant for the wage earner to support. We have been almost completely de-humanized and are merely consumers in a society whose sole purpose seems to be to produce and consume goods.
So, with that in mind, look how far we've come. From the time of having been led by Moses in the deserts of Sinai to worship in freedom - only to now look back longingly to slavery and a full belly. While we aren’t being chased by pharaoh’s chariots, our homes' and financial instruments, our currency and our means of employment all contribute to a life as lacking in freedom as Israel in Egypt. But more on that in the next post.