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A mouthful of a word, no doubt, but clearly evocative of its meaning, which is a concern for the distribution of the goods and bounty of the Earth. It's not particularly fashionable these days, and everybody from Marxist-Leninists to hardcore laissez-faire capitalists kind of wrinkle their noses, curl their lips, and sneer at it as an anachronistic relic of a bygone agrarian era. With such enemies, we do well to consider that it may have a positive contribution to make to modern public policy debates. It advocates broad ownership of property and capital within a society. Features of our modern economic systems that derive at least in part from the Distributist philosophy include cooperative enterprises, microenterprises, income tax deductions for interest paid on home mortgage loans, Employee Stock Ownership Programs and credit unions, this last being undoubtedly the largest and most important legacy of the philosophy. It is a historical and philosophical and moral base on which the previous Front Pages regarding microenterprise and cooperatives rest.
The May-June issue of the Houston Catholic Worker, published by the Casa Juan Diego Catholic Worker House has a large front-page article on "Distributism and the Catholic Worker Movement, which is the 14th in a series of articles about the roots of the Catholic Worker movement. It is by Nicholas Lund-Molfese, a professor of Salve Regina University, Rhode Island. Quoting Dorothy Day from the article:
"The principles of Distributism have been more or less implicit in much that we have written in the Catholic Worker for a long time. We have advised our readers to begin with four books, Chesterton's What's Wrong With the World, The Outline of Sanity and Belloc's The Servile State and Restoration of Property. The aim of Distributism is family ownership of land, workshops, stores, transport, trades, professions, and so on."
Lund-Molfese goes on to explain that the principles of Distributivism are derived from Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum. It was this encyclical that inspired Hilaire Belloc to go looking for a new solution to the economic problems of his own day.
The article quotes historian Dermot Quinn, writing in First Things magazine in defense of distributivism, says, "Distributism is less an economic theory than a moral anthropology. Its economic claims proceed from anterior moral claims about the acting person and the nature of charitable community. It is concerned above all with the creative subjectivity of human persons, their openness to transforming grace, and their capacity for dignity through work and property." Read the entire article HERE.
"If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the greater abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them, nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self-evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born; for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. . ." Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891
Roots of the Catholic Worker movement: saints and philosophers who influenced Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin directory page with links to on-line copies of articles in the Houston Catholic Worker about Emmanuel Mounier, Virgil Michel, OSB, Nicholas Berdyaev, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Teresa of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. John Hugo, Peter Kropotkin, distributism, labor and workers.
The Pope Speaks on Rural Life speech delivered by His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to the delegates of the Convention of the National Confederation of Farmer Owner-Operators, November 5, 1946. The Pope gives a trenchant critique of the evolution of the role of capitol in post-war economies, and strongly endorses family farming, small holdings, and widespread land and property ownership. Extensive bibliography.
Distributivism short discussion plus links, access to primary documents, (also links to three encyclicals: Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno and Centesimus Annus).
My View of Distributism a Catholic page, appreciative of the Church's contributions to distributism. Includes several links of interest, including some articles by Dorothy Day originally published in the Catholic Worker. The page author, Antoine Valentin, has a home page with a bunch of other interesting links, not necessarily related to distributism, but worth a look.
Defending Distributism response to an article in First Things magazine that was critical of distributism.
The American Distributist brief article about distributist philosophy.
Belloc Studies a Belloc "home page", with access to on-line writings, bibliographies, reference, and links.
American Chesterton Society "the mission of the ACS and its members is to extend the influence of G.K. Chesterton by promoting an interest in his writings. . . "
G.K. Chesterton Mega-Links Page big page of links to all things Chesterton, has a section on Distributism.
G.K. Chesterton a "home page", with short biography, has links.
Co-operative Enterprise free market alternatives to hard-core corporate capitalism. (Vol. 1. No. VII, May 4-11)
Microenterprise, "entry-level" free enterprise, discusses how poor people can help themselves by starting their own very small businesses. (VI)
Memorial to the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing commemorates the third anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995. (V)
Holy Week Home Page access to meditations and scripture for Holy Week (IV)
Lenten Meditations Page daily justice and peace meditations for Lent, based on the lectionary readings. Lent Entrance Page (III)
Just War and the Iraqi Escalation page of information and prayers relating to the on-going escalation of the situation in Iraq. Includes novena to Our Lady of Sorrows and Angelus in Time of War. (II)
Roe v. Wade Anniversary with a prayer to Mary for Life by Pope John Paul II. (I)
Home Index access to the main sections of this site.