12 February, 2020

Is Distributism a Socialist Cult?

I know a lot of Catholics who really like the YouTube channel of Dr. Taylor Marshall. They view him as one of the few reliable commentators on the Faith and living it in today's world. That is why I was so disappointed when I watched "Against Catholic Distributism w Dr Jay Richards and #TnT (Dr Marshall #234)." I have to admit that it was an extreme struggle to watch this video because it was a one hour and ten minute, non-stop misrepresentation of Distributism and distributists. To be honest, the first time I saw it, I could only get through about six minutes before I was so frustrated that I stopped. I regret that I did not continue at that time and write this article before now.

The apparent premise of the episode was a book co-authored by Dr. Richards, The Hobbit Party. The book was written because the authors felt that Tolkien's works had been misappropriated by the political left - among whom they include distributists. Here is a partial list of the claims made against distributists in the video. (Note, there are some contradictions in this list. That is because they are the combined comments of all three of the men in the video.)
  • Distributism is a "Shangri La" theory that distributists claim will "fix everything."
  • Distributists claim that distributism is the approved theory of Catholic economics. 
  • Hillaire Belloc had the exact same view of wealth as Karl Marx, in particular regarding the labor theory of value.
  • Distributism advocates government cutting businesses "down to size" and redistributing property.
  • Distributism would require that government gain absolute power over private property in order to be implemented.
  • Distributism defines (other) economic world views in terms of their supposed effects.
  • Distributists claim that, once distributism is achieved, "all of a sudden your athletic shoes smell good" and "everyone's got three acres and a mule."
  • Distributists refuse to talk in terms of property and contracts.
  • Distributists treat economics as if it is merely an ideology. 
  • Distributists have no economic knowledge. 
  • Distributists believe that supply and demand, comparative advantage, and scarcity are all just some kind of theory laden aspects of materialist philosophy. 
  • Distributists believe there actually are no economic truths, all there is is ethics. 
  • Distributism is only different from socialism in a rhetorical sense. 
  • A "socialist stage" is the only way to implement distributism, but we don't realize this. 
  • Distributism is not Marxist, but it is utopian in the same way that Marxism is. 
  • Distributists are socialists because we deny the right of possession of property. 
  • Distributists are egalitarians. 
  • One said we never cite Aquinas, magesterial or papal teaching. Another said we did but clearly misunderstand it all. The furthest back we will go is Chesterton and Belloc. 
  • The goal of distributism is to have people living on parceled up land, but have no idea how we get to this division.
  • Distributism is against allowing property to be inherited (based on Chesterton commenting favorably on the Napoleonic testamentary law.)
  • Distributist believe all land is common property (as divided by the government) and we have no answer to questions like, "are people allowed to sell their property?" Therefore, under distributism, everyone will live on "government land, eating government cheese, with a government mule."
  • Distributism is a cult. 
These comments represent the first fifteen minutes of the video. It is unfortunate that Dr. Marshall chose to launch this vehement, misleading attack against us. I hope and pray that, some day, they will take an honest look at what distributism actually is and repent for this video. However, I was glad to see that many of the comments left on the video said that the entire presentation was a series of straw-man attacks against us. It shows that at least some of Dr. Marshall's viewers may be more informed than he is.

Six months before this video was posted, Thomas Storck wrote an article asking, What is Happening? There appeared to be a distributist revival around 2009, but it appears to have fizzled out. However, our detractors are still out there and feel emboldened to make even the most absurd calumnious claims against us. Unless we are willing to face the criticisms and still present the true ideas of distributism, they will continue to be unknown by the vast majority of people. Unless we continue to present our true positions and defend distributism against our detractors, unless we continue to call out our detractors and point out when they make false claims against us, distributism will continue to be regarded as nothing more than an eccentric, anachronistic group of cultists who wish to live in fairy land.

As I said, I regret that I did not write this article earlier. Now that it is written, I will post a link to it as a comment to Dr. Marshall's video. Who knows, maybe someone new will be curious enough to click on it and learn who we really are, since it doesn't seem like they will learn that from him.


  1. Joe Grabowski also did an excellent response to this episode of Dr. Taylor Marshall.
    Uncommon Sense Podcast

  2. I have fortunately not seen that episode, and would have found it as disturbing as you did. Distributism is a good thing. What you describe as your reaction to that episode is what I started experiencing in general with his site/twitter/videos over the last 3-4 years. Finally my eyes opened, and I no longer watch.

  3. He seems to have deleted the video or made it private. If there's an explanation, I can't find it. I doubt if he's recanted, he's pretty stubborn judging by his (rare) responses to substantive argument. Hopefully I'm wrong and he's seen his error.


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