21 December, 2017

Capitalists Against the Free Market

If you listen to the apologists of capitalism, there is one thing they consistently argue for when they rail against things like socialism or even distributism; the Free Market. They say that they believe that the Market should determine what products and services succeed and fail without artificial support or suppression from the government. Customers should be free to decide what products and services they want to buy and it is up to the producers and service providers to convince consumers to choose theirs instead of others. It is interesting to note those cases where they not only fail to support this idea, but actively work against it.

08 December, 2017

A New Book From ... Fulton Sheen!


Publishing is often a pain and a drain, but it is not without a few pleasures. When I started ACS Books as an arm of the American Chesterton Society, it was fun to bring some titles into print that did not fall into any known category, which meant that nobody else was likely to publish them anyway. In general, writers are creative; publishers are not. Being a writer myself, I probably don’t think enough like a publisher. Which is why my publishing arm is part of a non-profit organization. And so I have had the privilege of publishing the firstever biography of Frances (Mrs. Gilbert) Chesterton, an annotated version of Hilaire Belloc’s oddball masterpiece TheFour Men (with notes provided by Deacon Nathan Allen, who along with three others, recreated Belloc’s famous fictional-factional walk across Sussex), a creative and unexpected explanation of the Catholic faith under the cover of TheCatechism of Hockey, and a hilarious piece of crime fiction called GetLouie Stigs about a low-level mob figure who gets convicted of fraud and sentenced to … a monastery. You should read them all.

21 November, 2017

An Economics of Justice & Charity

The Church has always concerned itself with issues of justice in society, and popes have taught extensively on the topic since the late 1800s. Unfortunately, many Catholics in our day are not aware of this teaching, or only consider it in regard to things like helping the poor. Helping the poor is a very important aspect of it, but the scope of the Church’s teaching on matters of social justice go much further. Any aspect of social life which involves questions of ethics or morality fall within the scope of this teaching. Thomas Storck’s new book, An Economics of Justice & Charity, is a guide that shows how the Church’s teaching is very clear, has never changed, and definitely applies to areas of social life like economics.

16 November, 2017

Self-sufficiency and economic freedom

Hilaire Belloc’s Essay on the Restoration of Property is a remarkably well-written book.  Put aside the question of whether Belloc is right or wrong about any of his contentions: the book is thoroughly lucid.  It’s also organic—you really can’t dip into it at random, you need to get ahold of the ideas as a whole.  This feature of the book, I think, leads to confusion among critics.  Well, there’s also the fact that despite its lucidity, the book covers far more territory than it could exhaustively treat, so there are some ideas that aren’t fully fleshed out.  One of those ideas, at least in my experience, is economic freedom.  It’s one of the central notions of the book, and one of the most fundamental principles upon which Distributism stands, and I’ve had a difficult time coming to grips with it. 

It seems to me others have, too, including some prominent opponents of Distributism.  In particular, there seems to be a tendency to conflate economic freedom and self-sufficience.  This has serious consequences.

19 October, 2017

The Distributist's Garden, Part 2

The Distributist should garden as though it matters.  Because it does.  In an earlier piece I urged Distributists to grow crops that provide the greatest amount of nourishment.  In this piece, I will urge Distributists to recognize the temporal element in gardening in addition to the spatial element.

05 October, 2017

Being Practical About Distributism

"The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1806
Those of us who promote distributism would love if society as a whole suddenly accepted it and immediately started changing to become a distributist society. We also aren't holding our breath, waiting for this to happen. We live in societies structured on Lockean philosophy and which most mistakenly believe have a modified version of "Smithean" economics. So how should those of use who promote and desire a distributist society act in the midst of this? 

26 September, 2017

Taking that First Step: an interview with Samantha Larson

Distributists desire the proliferation of small independently owned businesses. We also desire that larger businesses be cooperatively owned by those who do the work. While there will still be some form of employment even under a distributist system, people are more economically free when they own the means of their own living. Even employees would be more economically free if their opportunities for employment were from a large number of potential employers. Communities will also be better served if businesses are owned by those within the community. Finally, the local economy will be stronger because money spent in the local community will support the that community instead of being siphoned off to some far off corporate headquarters. If the collective resilience of local communities is strong, then the national economy will also be strong. However, in order for this to take place, people need to be willing to step out and take the risk of running their own businesses. In that light, I have interviewed a young woman who has recently done just that. Samantha Larson of BLT Beauty in Alpine, CA has been kind enough to share her experience with us.

07 September, 2017

Subsidiarity vs. Single Payer 2

Unfortunately, the circumstances of life prevented me from addressing Jack Quirk's response to my previous article on this topic before now. Given the amount of time, I considered moving on to other topics, but there were several points he claimed that I think really need to be addressed. Therefore, with apologies to our readers, and to Mr. Quirk and his readers, here is the much delayed response.

28 August, 2017

The Distributist's Garden

It’s pretty standard (and rightly so) to link Distributism with things like farmer’s markets and small scale organic farming.  If you’re a Distributist, you ought to opt out, as much as you can, from industrial agriculture.  As much as you can, you ought to support small local family farmers. 

But beyond that, it’s also pretty standard to link Distributism with gardening: this is another way to opt out of industrial agriculture, after all.  Instead of buying imported tomatoes in February, grow your own tomatoes and eat them in July, when God intended them to be eaten. 

19 July, 2017

Selling Out: The Perils of Capitalist Small Business

Not too long ago it was announced that Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina, which had been a craft brewery, was being sold to Anheuser-Busch, the gigantic beer corporation. The founders of Wicked Weed announced optimistically that
Partnering with Anheuser-Busch means great distribution opportunities, more resources, and connections to other breweries.... More opportunities for Wicked Weed means bringing craft beer to more people....

06 April, 2017

Subsidiarity vs. Single Payer

In his article, “Subsidiarity and the Single Payer,” Jack Quirk argues that a Single Payer system for health care services is consistent with the principles of subsidiarity and Catholic Social Teaching. He concludes his article by stating that the “principle of subsidiarity cannot legitimately be used to argue against a single-payer healthcare system. … Those who argue against it will need to avail themselves of something outside of Catholic social teaching for support.” His argument seems to depend on two points which I think are incorrect. The first is that the question of subsidiarity “does not turn on jurisdiction, but on competence. Subsidiarity is not federalism.” The second is the fact that some health care services are very expensive, and the fact that health insurers in the United States lack the power to contain those costs, means that the highest level of government has the right and responsibility, according to the principles of subsidiarity, to step in to assist paying for all health care services. This response is an explanation of why I believe he is wrong on both points.

02 March, 2017

Distributism and Capitalism: Some contrasting features - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

There are many supposed facts of economic life that any student of economics, or even any observer of political and economic news, is familiar with, matters such as unemployment, corporate mergers and acquisitions, labor relations, business cycles, and so on. I call these supposed facts, not because they do not exist, but because their existence is contingent upon man-made economic arrangements, such as laws and tax structures or even cultural norms. Contrary to the impression one takes from writings both of professional economists as well as from journalists, these things and events are not natural and necessary facts like the changing of the seasons or the daily rising of the sun. They need not exist, certainly at least not to the extent that they do in a capitalist economy. Let us take one of the items from the above list, business cycles, and consider it more carefully.

16 February, 2017

Distributism and Capitalism: Some contrasting features - Part 1

G. K. Chesterton's younger brother, Cecil, gave what is probably the most succinct definition of distributism, or rather of a distributist in an article he wrote in 1917.
A Distributist is a man who desires that the means of production should, generally speaking, remain private property, but that their ownership should be so distributed that the determining mass of families - ideally every family - should have an efficient share therein. That is Distributism, and nothing else is Distributism. ... Distributism is quite as possible in an industrial or commercial as in an agrarian community. ...[1]