Proponents of distributism in our time have a hard time talking about it clearly to people who aren’t already on board with their ideas. If you have muddled through the writing of any prominent modern distributist you know what I mean.
But it doesn’t have to be this hard to talk about. The path to a distributist economy is plain. It’s hard — maybe even ultimately indefensible — but come on! it’s at least straight-forward.
The Goal is that everyone have private ownership of some property that allows them to make their own living — and that everyone actually make their own living from their own property and labour. So how do you get there?
- Ban public ownership of corporate stock.
- Abolish inheritance and estate taxes.
- Force all businesses of more than, say, ten or twenty employees to convert to worker-owned cooperatives.
- Break up big farms into smaller worker-owned farms.
- Break up big banks into local credit unions.
- Abolish government enforcement of interest-rate contracts.
- Abolish social security and welfare at the federal and state levels.
- Heavily tax the ownership of non-homesteaded residential property (punish the rent-seekers) and heavily subsidize the purchase of small homesteaded residential property (make renters into owner-occupiers).
I’m just spitballing here. There’s probably more you could do. But if you want to convert a capitalist economy to a distributist one, this is how you start. I’m not going to defend each of these moves in this post — I don’t even personally support them as a set — except to say that any self-described distributist ought to be able to defend any one of them as a means of getting us to The Distributist Goal.
But this also makes clear why present-day distributists have a hard time writing clearly about how to implement their pet framework. It’s not just because it’s hard to get people to understand the idea of a third way between Capitalism and Communism (although it is very hard). It’s also because Distributism involves moves that most modern distributists, for various reasons, cannot stomach. It’s much safer and more comfortable to talk about Chesterton and Pope Leo XIII and the precedents of medieval economies than it is to propose anything that would begin, in 2016, to actually accomplish what you say you want.