Thursday, May 30, 2013

Something I've Realized About Distributism

I sort of hinted at it in an earlier post, but it's just now come clearly to mind with some of the comments being made by Pope Francis lately.

It is a central tenet of Catholic distributists that one of the major problems with capitalism is that it allows freer reign for the impulses wrought by original sin. The world, the flesh, the devil. That sort of stuff. This leads to an exploitation of the weak by the strong, etc.

What seems to be consistently, though admittedly not always, neglected in the distributist analysis is the effects of original sin on the poor. For example, most distributist treatises inevitably have a section/chapter mocking the notion that large numbers of the poor exist in such a state by choice. As I often concede, my anecdotes are not data, but I cannot but look around and immediately notice that there are significant numbers who make just such a choice. Moreover, what does it mean to essentially pass over and dismiss this notion by declaring it to be unreasonable?

Is it weird to think that some people would rather be poor(er) and not work than work and be just as well off or better off? Sure it's weird. Sin does weird things to people and makes them do dumb stuff. However, there's a reason that Sloth is on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. Distributists seem to ignore this and focus on the condemnation of unbridled and unethical capitalist conduct.

Now understand that I'm not saying that those latter criticisms are illegitimate. I'm saying that they are incomplete. Materialism and the addiction to worldliness infects everybody, including the poor. Perhaps, I dare say, even moreso with the poor since our current society feeds their envy right along with all the other sins shared in common with capitalism.

I ask again, how would anyone impose a just wage these days, knowing the measure of it that would be turned into bread and circuses?

This doesn't destroy distributist arguments or theories. It just makes me wonder about how you get around this problem since most of the solutions seem to be rather one-sided. Original sin is universal. We aren't going to see another Immaculate Conception. The culture feeds the fomes of sin in rich and poor alike. I've seen lots of proposals for how to deal with this at the higher levels. What do we do about the 99%?


Anonymous said...

Very well said.

I distrust Distributism as a political movement: too often it seems like crypto-socialism, and indeed G K Chesterton said that the sort of man who has been a Socialist is exactly the sort of man who becomes a Distributist.

BONIFACE said...

I'm not sure I get what you're saying. Are you suggesting that Distibutists don't sufficiently understand that many if the poor are in fact lazy or that it is within their power to better themselves? I have never thought Distirbutists didn't get this; everyone knows there are gobs of lazy, idle poor. I think the Distributist critique is that this alone is not enough to account for poverty - that there are real instructional factors inherent in capitalism that tends towards proliferating poverty.