Saturday, February 26, 2011

From the Forum I Frequent

My recent comments in a discussion about modern distributism:

As long as they condemn use of force to achieve economic ends, I will support them. However, I don't see how distributism as I understand it is possible without massive interventionism.
Voluntary distributism would be lovely, and it would occur on a small scale, likely in rural communities, but I don't think it's feasible on a large scale, nor necessarily desirable. 


In one afternoon reading [The Church and the Market by Thomas Woods] I was completely blown away. Over the course of about three hours I was converted from a fairly typical right winger with vague ideas of the need for government intervention, to... whatever I am now. Agorist, anarcho-capitalist, economic 'Austrianist', whatever you want to call it.

Now, granted, I did want to believe in a free market, so I was naturally more disposed to accept his arguments. Nonetheless, I think they were very solid and irresistibly compelling.

I'm such a fan of his work that just today I ordered two of his other books. The first, Meltdown, examines the recent economic collapse of the US from a free-market perspective. Spoiler alert: the collapse wasn't due to capitalism. The second, his brand new just-released book Rollback, takes Meltdown a step farther. First it argues that all great things of the modern age have happened in spite of government intervention, rather than because of it. That's a topic that Jeffrey Tucker has been pounding away on with great success for years. From there I believe it moves on to establish how society could be far better off by 'rolling back' government.

Like I said, I'm all in favour of voluntary distributism. :) I don't believe it to be the most economically efficient model, nor do I think that it's going to offer the highest standard of living, but I don't believe those have to be the most important considerations either. I'm very attracted to a sort of self-sufficient local economy idea. I'm not sure yet whether or not I'd want to live in such a community myself, but the idea is certainly tempting.

My idea of utopia changes all the time, and I think right now I have three or four somewhat competing (though not necessarily mutually exclusive) systems in my head. :lol: Maybe I can integrate them over time.
Anyway, in this one idea I've got now, society would move towards a pseudo-clan system, made up of extended family, and probably several close families living in proximity to each other. Each immediate family would be fairly self-sufficient, and in times of need responsibility would radiate outwards, first in extended family (and maybe closest friends), and then to the community at large. There'd be no taxation, but rather voluntary charity.
Since the communities would be small, public goods could be provided on a voluntary basis as well, and since we are dealing with family and friendship bonds, and since family responsibility would be emphasized, there'd likely be less or maybe no problems with the 'tragedy of the commons', i.e. the abuse of goods used in common by non-contributing members.
Of course with this system, division of labour is naturally going to be limited due to a smaller population. Until that fact can be worked around, these pseudo-clans would live in a lower standard of living than they might be able to individually in a large industrialized city. Inter-clan trading would be limited by geographical considerations, which might prevent outright the industries that require specialized skills (like high technology), or a large capital investment (heavy industry, natural resources). If a high standard of living is not the primary goal, and the residents of the system obtain quality of life more from other areas, then they may approve of this trade-off. 
Here is a link to that discussion.


  1. This blog lives!! Good post. :)

  2. The economic Distributism is strikingly similar to Mutualism, a free market without Capitalism. A free market based on networks of worker cooperatives, workers struggle against the claim of capital through non-violent revolution - (as Dorothy Day said, building a new world in the shell of the old). By "Capitalism", I mean the dominion of Capital as the primary basis of production in a society, that creates a divorce of ownership from labor. Kevin Carson demonstrates that what is commonly known as "Capitalism" today historically rose from massive State intervention from the state in which he called "The Subsidy of History" (massive land theft, money monopoly, infrastructure subsidy, patent monopoly, and tariff monopoly). Kevin Carson is also a praxeologist which offers a different conclusion of what a truly free market ought to like.

    This video lecture by Sheldon Richman is also great,' "Capitalism" vs The Free Market'

  3. In Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, Italy (home to the oldest Catholic University in the world), two out of three people are members of a cooperative.

    * An area of four million people with 90,000 manufacturing enterprises - compare that with New York City’s 26,000 manufacturers, with more than double the population; (this shows how it is actually represent a true competition, unlike the Capitalist hypocrisy of "competition", which in actual practice falls more into monopoly and oligopoly, where more entreprises are owned by fewer individuals.
    * Some 470,000 enterprises (2004) – more than one business for every 10 citizens;
    * The highest concentration of cooperatives in Italy with two-thirds of its people as members;
    * Only a handful of firms with 500+ employees - most of them cooperatives;
    * More than half of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) produced by cooperatives
    * Many Social function of the State have been transfered to Social Co-operatives, proving how Social Co-operatives are much more efficient than Goverment-run social services. Now 85% of social services are provided by Social Co-ops rather than by the Government.

    "A Market Without Capitalists"

  4. I'm not a distributist. I do not think it's the system most conducive to a high standard of living, nor would I choose to live in a distributist system.
    You would most accurately call me an anarcho-capitalist. For further reading, look at anything by Dr. Thomas Woods.

  5. I myself, used to be an anarcho-capitalist for years, hence I am very familiar with Rothbard (in which I am still admire in a certain sense) and Mises, and of courses Dr. Thomas Woods and other paleo-libertarians like Lew Rockwell.

    However, after encountering left libertarians like Konkin and especially Kevin Carson (after reading The Church and the Market), I am more of a synthesis between Agorist (emphasis on counter-economics and direct action, rather than voting), Mutualist (emphasis on Worker Cooperatives, Credit Unions and/or Mutual Banking), and Distributist (emphasis on family). Kevin Carson has demonstrate how the currently existing dominant Capitalist economy in history has been dependent on a large scale State intervention for interest of the Capitalist owning class (where ownership is divorced from labor). For further reading, look at anything by Kevin Carson.

  6. In my opinion the familiar emphasis of distributism is perfectly compatible with anarcho-capitalism. I have no issues with agorism because of its emphasis on individual responsibility.
    Basically, if it will arise in an unhindered market, I do not want to stop it. However, the second it seeks to enforce itself, it too is the enemy. Some people are fine with the necessarily lowered standard of living that distributism will produce. That's fine, it's their right. However, I have a huge problem with the distributists that seek to make distributism normative through the state.