Wishing a “people-centred” economy into existence is integral to the distributist fantasy. But how does its magical, humane “infrastructure” come into being? Would you have the steelworker who loads the arc furnace at the mill that supplies the metal for the dentist’s drill become more “people-centred”? How? Maybe he is ordered to pause every 30 minutes to read Wendell Berry poems to his co-workers as the furnace melts its batch of scrap? Or perhaps the fellow on the diesel engine line gets a union-mandated break to strum folk music on his banjo? Or maybe the jumbo jet assembly plant can set aside plots of land for organic gardening?
These examples are as absurd as distributism. Which is more of an aesthetic, a sensibility, a nostalgia for a bygone era that conveniently ignores pervasive wretchedness, than an economic possibility. And at the heart of distributism is the hidden coercive impulse that would prohibit ordinary folk from behaving and consuming, as pauldanon says, in “frivolous” ways.
Quick response: While I wouldn’t call myself a distributists, simply because I am not well-informed enough about economics to make a confident decision, I am obviously highly sympathetic with the distributist project. Nevertheless, my suspicion of utopianism makes me hesitant — and Joe (and Couretas) are right that there’s a lot about distributism that is utopian. Nevertheless x 2, I believe that there are some useful insights about work, economy, and human nature, both individual and social, that we could take from distributism and its decentralist view. The notion that the market as we now experience it is wholly free and undetermined by anything except the free exercise of choice is an illusion.
Anyway, because I am trying to finish a very long post on religion and truth before 3 pm, I will leave it to our smart friends at Front Porch Republic to answer this. Ol’ Joe’s baiting them, too:
(When the agrarian professors give up their tenure at Ivy League U, move back to the farm, and teach at Wendell Berry Community College, I’ll believe they mean what they say).
Deneen, Mitchell, Schwenkler, et al. — are y’all just going to sit there and take this? Heh.