18 December, 2015

The bogus, self-serving notion that poverty is simple

In a recent article for The Week, Jeff Spross makes a fair claim against the standard "conservative" rhetoric that the real solution to the problem of poverty is for those in poverty to start working. He also addresses the position of some conservatives who say that we can never truly address the issue of poverty because it is such a complicated human problem. Mr. Spross points out fatal flaws with this claim, but fails to see the fatal flaw in what he presents as the solution.

03 December, 2015

Where's our economic recovery?

We've been told that the economic recession of 2008 ended around June of 2009. For the last six years, the US economy has supposedly been recovering. Banking leaders are claiming that the economy is now doing well. If this is true, why is it that so many Americans haven't seen it? Banking leaders and other experts seem to only be looking at Wall Street even though it only provides half of the jobs in the US. The economic market that provides the other half of the jobs, "Main Street," is still asking when they will see any real benefits of this six year recovery.

26 November, 2015

Practical Distributism and The Distributist Review

We give thanks!

We are happy to announce that The Distributist Review has relaunched its site. For any of you who were not previous readers of the DR, I encourage you to head over and check it out. For those of you who were, I'm sure you share our enthusiasm that the wait for its return is over.

Logo for The Distributist Review © The Distributist Review. Used with permission.

05 November, 2015

House Rulez

What limits are there to what people will do for money or some other form of success? This question is the basis of what is called, “reality television.” While some people point out that the situations of these shows are unreal, the “realities” that are being presented to us are the decisions of the people in these situations. What alliances will they make and break? What lies will they tell? What are they willing to do to each other? To what will they subject themselves in order to win? House Rulez takes these questions to a new level.

26 October, 2015

Distributism and Labor Unions

It has sometimes been said that distributism, the economic system that promotes widely distributed productive property - whether this is owned by a single proprietor, a family, or a worker cooperative - is hostile to labor unions and the labor movement. While I do not deny that there may have been someone who labels himself a distributist who at one time or another said something negative about the labor movement, the central distributist movement, exemplified by theorists such as Hilaire Belloc or G. K. Chesterton, and of late by organs such as Practical Distributism or The Distributist Review, has not embraced such a position. Any apparent hostility is based upon a misunderstanding of the differences between a capitalist economy and a distributist economy. For example, when Belloc wrote that a union "is a proletarian institution through and through and a proletariat and a proletarian spirit is exactly what we are aiming to destroy,"[1] he was simply noting that in a distributist society the labor market divide between owners and workers, which is the hallmark of capitalism, would not exist, or would hardly exist. Since distributists desire a proliferation of small economic units - workshops, stores, farms - it is obvious that in such entities there would be no labor movement because there would be no labor. Or to put it more precisely, the worker would be the owner, and the owner the worker. There would be no need for him to form a union to protect his interests against himself. Entities that of necessity required a large facility with a large workforce would, according to the distributist model, be employee owned and administered by the workers themselves. Again there would be no need for a union. Thus Belloc is not exhibiting any hostility toward workers but rather hopes that their status may be improved by making them owners.

15 October, 2015

Socialism and the Early Distributists

Distributists are often accused of being socialists, or at least quasi-socialists. This is a claim which we vehemently deny. However, it might be a surprise to know that some of the early distributists were involved in the early socialist movement. Does this fact not give credence to the claim that distributism is a form of socialism? Does this mean that distributists are being dishonest or inconsistent about the origins and aims of the distributist movement? These are serious questions which we must be prepared to answer. Although many people seem to be growing disillusioned by capitalism, the majority are not so deluded as to accept socialism. In order to address the issue, we must look at the beginnings of both the socialist and distributist movements.

01 October, 2015

Distributism or Capitalism: Two Ways to Work - Part 2

Next we come to what we term one's competitors, that is, those producing or selling the same sort of product. Under capitalism such producers are pretty much the enemy. Though there is a certain amount of collaboration on shared concerns - such as lobbying the government on matters of interest for the entire industry - generally it is held that since it is the natural aim of each business to increase its income without limit, the success of one firm always comes at the expense of the other firms. Each is competing for as much market share as possible. And such an attitude flows logically from a concern solely with profit and "the amount of wealth accumulated by the dealer." But if sellers and producers see themselves as supplying a need of the public, there is no reason why they cannot regard their fellow sellers and producers as partners in the same effort. Provided that sellers or producers make a profit sufficient to cover costs and provide for their livelihood, why should they wish that other sellers or producers of the same product suffer or go out of business?

17 September, 2015

Independent Publishing: An Interview with Matt Vancil

In order for people to be able to see that distributism can actually work, to see that it is actually something practical instead of  some Utopian fantasy, we need to be able to provide practical alternatives for doing things in ways that are more in line with the distributist ideal than the currently prevailing methods. Fortunately, there are people out there who are already doing this. Many who would not call themselves distributists, who may have never heard of distributism, are already trying to accomplish things in ways that happen to be more in line with distributism. One person who is in this category is Matt Vancil. Mr. Vancil has written independent films like JourneyQuest and The Gamers, and is involved with the production team at Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. He recently published his first novel, PWNED, which is available through the Fan Supported Network and Amazon, and agreed to sit with me to discuss his experience as an independent publisher.

03 September, 2015

Distributism or Capitalism: Two Ways to Work - Part 1

When human beings engage in economic activity they engage with other people. Even a gardener cultivating his own small plot has probably obtained his seeds and his tools from others and at least depends upon the larger society for the social stability that allows him to plant his garden with a reasonable expectation that he'll be able to harvest his crop later. But most often economic actors relate in many more obvious ways with others, with employees, with customers, with those we call competitors, and in a sense, with the general public or society itself. Each way of organizing economic activity, each economic system, necessitates or at least makes probable certain ways of interacting with these other persons and groups. Let us examine the contrast between how capitalism and distributism do this. But first, how do we define these two economic systems?

01 September, 2015

Movimento Distributista Italiano

Here is another distributist web site to check out.

Movimento Distributista Italiano

Like this site, they have enabled the translate feature for others to read their articles.

20 August, 2015


I have presented in several articles that distributism is not just another way of juggling numbers in an attempt to make sense of economics. Just as capitalism and collectivism are fundamentally different ways of envisioning the economic and political environment of a society, distributism is yet another way that is fundamentally different than those views. Some people think that distributism is an attempt at a "middle ground" or blending of capitalism and socialism. In fact, such a blending will result in what Belloc called the Servile State - something entirely different than what distributism hopes to achieve. It can be difficult for distributists to appreciate just how fundamental these differences in economic views are, and that makes it difficult to appreciate just how much of a change we are asking of those we are trying to convince. We face tremendous obstacles in trying to establish even some of what distributism proposes. I would like to present an example of this by considering the concept of price, and the difference between the capitalist "market price" the masses have been taught to accept, and the distributist "just price" we are trying to help them understand.

06 August, 2015

Whence Comes Government Authority?

The answer to this question is important for determining if there are any limits to the authority of government and, if so, what those limits are. It will help us to understand when those who wield the power of government have gone too far in the exercise of that power. It will help us to identify when groups of people actively seek to manipulate government to do things that are an abuse of its power.

04 August, 2015

An Objection to Distributism That Just Doesn't Fly

For those of you who subscribe, Dale Ahlquist has an excellent article about Distributism and industries like airlines in the latest issue of Gilbert Magazine.

For those of you who don't subscribe, I recommend you head on over to The American Chesterton Society to rectify the situation.

03 August, 2015

Opus Publicum

I'd like to say thank you to Opus Publicum for suggesting Practical Distributism as a site its readers should check out. I've noticed a lot of visits from that post.

In an effort to return the favor, I recommend to our own readers that they should check out Opus Publicum. It covers a broader spectrum of issues than Practical Distributism, and offers much food for thought.

David W. Cooney, Editor

18 June, 2015

Achieving Distributism - Part III

There are two social foundations of distributism; decentralized political authority according to the principles of subsidiarity, and the wide-spread private ownership of productive property. When established, these foundations will result in greater freedom for individuals and families throughout society in general and a more stable national economy supported by strong local economies. What is needed to actually achieve this? I believe it starts with shifting our philosophical outlook. We need to realize that economics is not the kind of science we have been told it is. We need to look beyond the immediate end of our economic activities and see how those activities fit within the overall community. If we do this, we will start to see how a local community is self-supporting in ways that corporate capitalism is not. We will start to see that, when we consider how our economic decisions can benefit or harm others in our community, we will all benefit.

Economic Law and Catholic Social Doctrine, Part Two

In the first part of this article I spoke of economic behavior as understood by mainstream neoclassical economics and provided a critique of that, pointing out in particular its failure to recognize the crucial role played by power and by human institutions in determining economic outcomes. Now how does this relate to Catholic social teaching? Does it recognize these factors?

Justice, Fairness and Taxation, Part Four

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 24 April, 2011

I would like to wrap up this series with an examination of a few more types of taxation. Keep in mind, that this series is not intended to be exhaustive. It is intended to open the door to discussion by presenting ideas for consideration. I do not pretend to provide the definitive “Distributist view” on taxation. It is a complex topic and there can be legitimate differences of opinion while staying true to the idea of Distributism.

04 June, 2015

Achieving Distributism - Part II

Asserting the right to own private property is not the same as asserting the right to acquire unlimited amounts of it, nor is it the same as saying there are no other limitations in regard to that acquisition. This is one point where capitalists will raise a huge objection. We must keep in mind that the basis of the right to private property is the right to secure for oneself, and one's family and heirs, the basic needs of life and the ability to achieve a good standard of living according to the social norms of the society at large. This is not merely a social right; it is a right based on our very existence as rational beings. Those who do not have this must be able to better their situation so that they do, and society must be structured so that anti-competitive forces cannot act to hinder them from being able to accomplish this for themselves.

Economic Law and Catholic Social Doctrine, Part One

Since the beginning of her existence on this earth the Church of Jesus Christ has taught about both faith and morals, that is, about what we are to believe and how we should behave. Under the latter head the Church has taught much about the virtue of justice and has applied that teaching to many specific situations in human affairs. Many of these situations are complex, but that has not prevented the Church from making moral judgments about the rights and the wrongs that are involved. Since the latter half of the nineteenth century the Church has addressed the modern economy of Capitalism, and rendered judgments on many aspects of that economy. The body of these teachings is generally known as Catholic Social Teaching, and it began in an authoritative way with Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Since then nearly every pope has added to the corpus of the Church’s social teaching through encyclicals or other documents, as did the Second Vatican Council in its constitution Gaudium et Spes.

Justice, Fairness and Taxation, Part Three

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 19 January, 2011

In Parts One and Two, I mainly discussed the different schools of Capitalist thought (Keynesian and non-Keynesian) and how Distributism differs from them in regard to the role of government in stabilizing the economy and the use of taxation in doing so. Before I begin discussing the different methods of taxation, I should also make a brief mention of other contemporary views on the subject.

21 May, 2015

Achieving Distributism - Part I

There is a persistent question which is hurled before us as a gauntlet. Just how do distributists propose that we achieve the wider distribution of productive property? We are accused of secretly advocating a powerful central state on the grounds it is necessary to forcibly redistribute the property to fit our scheme. We are accused of having no plan other than to rob the current owner of what is lawfully his in order to give it to others. This is a charge that must be taken seriously and clearly answered.

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, Part Two

In this article I will conclude the discussion of Centesimus Annus and bring the series on papal social teaching to an end. The fourth and longest chapter of Centesimus Annus concerns the twin truths of the right to private property, and at the same time, of the universal destination of material goods. This is the same truth that Leo XIII stated when he said, ” … the earth, though divided among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all” (Rerum Novarum, §7).[1] That is, the reason that God has instituted the private ownership of property among men is not to exclude anyone from his share of the earth’s bounty, but rather to make possible the efficient and peaceful provision of sufficient goods for all. Thus private property is simply a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. Though it is surely a means consonant with human nature, and therefore it cannot be abrogated by human law, it is nevertheless subordinate to its end, and thus can be regulated so as to better attain that end. Thus the chief matter that the Holy Father takes up in this chapter is what he calls “the legitimacy of private ownership, as well as the limits which are imposed on it” (Centesimus Annus, §30).

Justice, Fairness and Taxation, Part Two

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 8 November, 2010

In Part I of this article, I pointed out that a purpose of the Keynesian redistribution of wealth was to keep the engine of Capitalism working. It’s adherents advocate it from a sincere belief that this is the best way to help everyone. It sustains the poor and maintains the wealthy. The conservative and libertarian pundits who praise the small business owner do so on the assumption that he is an entrepreneur seeking to become a wealthy monopolist. They also believe that wealthy monopolists are required in a society to provide enough jobs for the mass of people. In other words, they advocate the growth and consolidation of businesses into wealthy monopolies because they sincerely believe it is for the common good. Distributists, on the other hand, seek to eliminate monopoly as a means of establishing the common good.

09 May, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, Part One

In this article I will begin the discussion of Centesimus Annus, the latest social encyclical, written to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum, and issued on May 1, 1991. In some quarters Centesimus was hailed as a new direction in papal social teaching, and even as a repudiation of past doctrine. However, as we will see, this was not at all the case. But because this charge has been widely made, I will denote much of this article and the next to showing the continuity of Centesimus with the prior social doctrine of the Church.

Justice, Fairness and Taxation, Part One

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 1 November, 2010

John Médaille’s recent article on the “Fair Tax” stirred up quite a conversation on the nature and acceptability of methods of taxation in relation to distributist principles. Although some of the controversy was due to a misunderstanding of his actual views, distributists do need to present their ideas on taxation to stir up debate in a way that clarifies the issues. I’m hoping this article will be a useful contribution along with Mr. Médaille’s efforts to that end.

27 April, 2015

Who's Looking Out For You?

As we approach the 2016 election run in the United States of America, you can expect the usual claims from both of the major political parties about how they are really on your side. You probably know the narrative. Republican candidates will assure us that the Democrats are all about big government taking away what you've earned to give it to someone else. Democrat candidates will assure us that the Republicans are all about giving tax breaks to the rich and don't care what happens to you. Some people may ask which of these parties is really on your side. I prefer to ask if either one is.

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

Just a few years after Laborem Exercens, on December 30, 1987, John Paul II issued the second of his social encyclicals, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. Unlike most of the social encyclicals, which were published on an anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, was issued to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio. In fact, John Paul II states that he desires “to pay homage to this historic document of Paul VI” (§3) and “to extend the impact of that message by bringing it to bear…upon the present historical moment…” (§4). Not surprisingly the Holy Father devotes the first part of Sollicitudo to a discussion of Paul VI’s encyclical. He points out that Populorum Progressio brought out the “worldwide dimension” (§9) of the social question more clearly than any previous papal document. That encyclical had been devoted to the “development” or “progressio” of the peoples of the world, not merely to development conceived of as an accumulation of goods, but as promoting “the good of every man and of the whole man.”[1] Now in his own document, John Paul proposes “to develop the teaching of Paul VI’s Encyclical” (§11).

Distributism and Campaign Finance Reform

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 19 July, 2010

It’s campaign time again in the US. The issue of how political campaigns are financed has become a popular topic in recent years, with both of the major parties accusing each other of bad practice. Everyone knows that the ability to fund political campaigns has a direct influence on political policies. Our constitutional republic is supposed to act in the interests of the several states and the people, not those of corporations, union leaders, or other groups. However, as John Médaille says, we really live in a republic of PACs. As long as organizations with large bank rolls can exert influence on our government’s policies, putting their interests over those of the people, we will remain a plutocracy.

16 April, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens

After the brief pontificate of John Paul I (August to September 1978), John Paul II began his reign in October of 1978. As is well-known, John Paul is the first non-Italian pope since 1523 and the first Pole ever chosen as Vicar of Christ. John Paul II’s encyclicals and other writings have often been longer and more meditative than those of previous pontiffs. In a sense, he has created a body of work which is a consciously interrelated statement of the Faith. He himself often points out the connection of one dogma with another, for example, the relationship between the Church’s doctrine of the nature of man and her doctrine of man’s rights and duties in society.[1]

A Problem With Over-Centralizing Production

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 20 August, 2010

We distributists advocate the decentralization of production whenever practical. We are challenged by claims that centralization is more efficient in terms of cost. “What’s wrong with Big Business” is a question we need to answer. The founders of Distributism focused on the idea that, when the overwhelming majority of citizens work for a wage at jobs controlled by relatively few wealthy individuals, their situation is a form of slavery. It may not be as bad as the slavery of the 19th century but, in many ways, the house slaves of that era didn’t have it as bad as the slaves of the field.

09 April, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: From Pius XII Through Paul VI

The successor of Pius XI in the papacy was Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958. Although today he is often not appreciated, I think he was one of the greatest popes of the last two centuries. He issued major encyclicals on the Mystical Body of Christ, on the sacred liturgy, on biblical studies and on modern philosophical and theological errors. Most notably, in 1950 he infallibly proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven. He also re-instituted the Easter Vigil Mass on the evening of Holy Saturday, and, in reaction to the changed conditions of modern life drastically reduced the Eucharistic fast to three hours in order to allow more people to receive our Lord in Holy Communion.

Although Pius XII did not issue any social encyclicals, he gave a great number of addresses on social topics. And because of their importance, I will quote from a few of them in this article.

02 April, 2015

Your Tax Dollars

Here's a sobering thought. If we were to actually pay for what the government provides, our taxes would be almost doubled.

13 March, 2015

Wall Street vs Main Street

So says an article on CNN Money in a comment that is directed at Wall Street. What is most interesting about this comment is that it essentially admits what distributists have been criticized for saying for some time. The economic aims of Wall Street are in conflict with the economic needs of Main Street.

19 February, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: Pius XI

In the last article I discussed the contribution of Pius X and Pius XI to the social teaching of the Church, including the first part of Pius XI’s great encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. The next topic that Pius XI takes up is the immense one stated in the title of the encyclical, the reconstruction of the social order. This reconstruction is divided into two essential parts, “the reform of institutions and the correction of morals.” Pius treats moral reform in the third and last section of the encyclical, and now turns his attention to the reform of institutions. This is probably the most important section of Quadragesimo Anno, for in it Pius XI elaborates his teaching about “occupational groups,” sometimes known in the United States as “industry councils.” But first he introduces the concept of the principle of subsidiarity and begins the discussion by reminding his readers about that “highly developed social life which once flourished in a variety of prosperous and interdependent institutions,” but which has subsequently been destroyed “leaving virtually only individuals and the State…” (§78). What is the Pope talking about? In the English-speaking world we are apt to consider the individual as the foundation of the state, which was formed when a number of separate individuals joined together to form a body politic. We consider only individuals and the state to be normal or necessary parts of any society. Of course, we might admit various private and voluntary organizations, from clubs to political parties to labor unions and trade associations. But all of these are private, essentially nothing more than groups of individuals having no more status in the constitution of society than a chance gathering of friends.

05 February, 2015


At the beginning of his term as Prime Minister, David Cameron unveiled a program called the “Big Society.” The idea is to decentralize both legislative and tax authority from the central government and make them more local. Geographically, this plan goes beyond the states of the United Kingdom, and even beyond the county councils. The plan includes moving authority all the way to city leaders. This idea, known as “devolution,” is still on the minds of the English, and there appears to be an ongoing movement to make this idea a political reality. This is certainly an encouraging movement from a distributist perspective, but it faces some serious challenges.

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. Pius X through Pius XI

In the last article in this series I spoke of Leo XIII, and especially of his great encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891. Leo XIII was the first pope to systematically evaluate modern economic conditions in the light of the teaching of the Church, and the tradition he began has continued and developed to this day. In this article, I will cover the period from the reign of St. Pius X (1903 to 1914) to Pius XI. During this time successive popes developed the doctrine of Rerum Novarum according to the needs of the time, in particular in the encyclical Pius XI issued commemorating its fortieth anniversary in 1931.

The Economists Are Beginning To Crack

In [an] article [on www.roubini.com], Tim Duy asks “Why Is the American Jobs Machine Broken?” In the article, he describes the discussions economists are having about the reasons the job market continues to decline, and declares that he has become a heretic in regard to the theories of Free Trade. The fact that economists are beginning to question their policies is only the beginning.  The only choices they appear to see are between Free Trade and protectionism. In fact, the issue goes much deeper than that. This small crack in the faith of modern economists is just the first step in a long journey to seeing what is truly necessary for economic stability.

26 January, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: From the Beginning through Leo XIII

The social apostolate of Christ’s one Church began while that Church’s Founder was still on this earth. In fact, even before the Incarnation, during the Old Testament dispensation, the law of God and His prophets insisted continually on justice and charity toward the poor. For example, the law of Moses proclaims that every seventh year “every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor” (Deuteronomy 15:2) and nearly every prophet denounces those “who oppress the poor, who crush the needy” (Amos 4:2). In fact, social justice was linked with faithfulness to the God of Israel and the keeping of His covenant.

A Potential Step in the Right Direction

On 19 July, [2010], British Prime Minister, David Cameron gave a speech that should perk up the ears of Distributists, especially any that live in United Kingdom. Mr. Cameron’s “Big Society” initiative seeks to divest responsibilities and authorities absorbed by the British Parliament and transfer them to the local level. Of course, this is already being harshly criticized by groups with operational ties and other vested interests in the central government, but this initiative has the potential to unleash precisely the sort of philosophical shift that men like Chesterton and Belloc knew would be necessary if Distributism were to ever have a chance. Now, I don’t assume that Mr. Cameron is a Distributist – he may or may not be – but I can’t help picturing Messrs. Chesterton and Belloc smiling.

Steps and Stumbles

[In 2010], I wrote about a potentially exciting movement supported by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron. This was branded as the “Big Society,” and it promised that the central government was going to distribute political authority from itself to the local level. It consisted of several programs to assist local councils in taking on additional responsibilities that were currently being handled at the central level. The idea was that the common citizen, working with local government, would be capable of dealing with local issues and would no longer be dependent on the central government to deal with every problem. If it could be handled at a local level, the local level would be empowered to handle it. This was not a fully distributist plan, but it had the potential to be a step in that direction.

15 January, 2015

Catholic Social Doctrine: An Introduction

Within the body of truths taught by the Catholic Church, truths about what we must believe and about how we are to live, there are those truths commonly called Catholic social teaching or the Church’s social doctrine. They are an important and integral part of Catholic doctrine, but not so well known or so well understood as they might be. In this series of articles I will be presenting this teaching by way of expounding the principal documents in which it has been embodied by successive popes. In this first article I will give an introduction to the teaching, including what I think are important points we should remember to prevent misunderstanding, and to perhaps lessen the disagreements which sometimes arise in this area.

03 January, 2015

Stocks: The Myth of Ownership

In response to my article on the nature of capitalism, I received some responses objecting to my statement that part of the definition of capitalism is that laws facilitate the separation of ownership from work. Well, not only do the laws of capitalism facilitate the separation of ownership from work, but they even seem to separate ownership from the rights of ownership.