Distributism: a 12-Step Program
On March 2, 2011, we ran this story on the American Chesterton Society web page. With the OccupyWallStreet and OccupyYourTowns that are happening all over the country, we thought it might be a good time to take another look at what each of us can do to be a Distributist — and perhaps inject a little sanity into the counterproductive Capitalism vs. Socialism debate that fuels the protests. This editorial was written by Gilbert Magazine Literary Editor Therese Warmus.
Adapted from an editorial that ran in our December, 2009 issue:
Gilbert Magazine is inspired to give its readers a gift: a way to detoxify from Capitalism. In favor of what? Distributism, of course. Like that other “concept” found difficult and thus left untried, Distributism is often grossly misunderstood. Over the years, we have received letters claiming it is “foolish,” “impractical,” “backward,” and “unlikely”—strange words to describe the only economic scheme that functions for everyone and that can be sustained over time. Nothing but Distributism, we retort, is more likely to survive the current financial mess we find ourselves in—will enough of us realize it in time, and return to sanity? Toward this end we present the Twelve-Step Program for Distributism, a primer for the reluctant and a refresher course to help our readers kick the Capitalism habit.
Step One. Begin by thinking like a Distributist. A little-known but powerful idea called subsidiarity states that larger entities like states and federal authorities should not assume rights and responsibilities proper to smaller entities, especially the family. The principle works both ways, of course—a thirteen-year-old boy must not presume to switch around signs for the local county roads; neither should the county be permitted to determine whether the boy goes to bed without his supper for the prank. What are the undue influences in your own home? Act to remove these, and fight to keep them out.
Step Two. Look at your possessions. Which do you own and which own you? Possessions that give nothing and drain your checkbook are worse than worthless; get rid of them. Consider possessions as resources, and you will see them in a new light. One person stopped tossing cardboard, kitchen scraps, and old potting soil; he now mixes these with composting worms and grows vegetables and fruits no money can buy. All on his apartment balcony.
Step Three. A billboard appearing nationally displays several small infants with the caption: “Children, our greatest resource.” We cannot say it better. Married? Have a child. Have one? Have another. Find your joy in love of God and family. You’ll never regret it.
Step Four. Stop working for your boss. No, we’re not suggesting you quit your job—ready cash is a resource, after all. Rather, put your job and your boss in their proper place, after the family. Many people work long years for perks that, if they ever come, fail to satisfy. Awards won’t console you on your deathbed.
Step Five. Married? Get your wife fired. Many couples have no idea what a working wife and mother costs the family. Never mind the childcare; how many times a week do you eat out or buy take-home, not because you want to (or even have the money), but simply because mom and dad are exhausted and the kids are screaming? Is your freezer stuffed with “convenience foods”? Did you buy a boat that sits in the backyard ten months out of the year because “Suzy’s working and we can afford it”?
Step Six. Are you thriving, or just surviving? Ever run to the store for something only to discover its twin on the shelf when you got home? Can’t find clean socks? You’ve got a management problem. See Steps Two and Five.
Step Seven. Still working on Sunday when you don’t have to? Even God knew when to quit. Genuine recreation fixes friendships, saves marriages, and restores the soul—play is a serious matter; we can’t live without it.
Step Eight. Resurrect the fine old art of bartering. Yes, the government hates anything that can’t be taxed. But most barters have to do with the rare odd jobs we can’t do ourselves, like fixing a broken eave board on a second-story roof; your neighbor has the equipment; why should you buy them for a one-time job? Especially when he needs a new rotor cap for his old Ford and you have the part.
Step Nine. Learn to feed yourself. The price of food at the grocer’s is increasing out of all proportion to what it’s worth—shipping and packaging costs are responsible. Fresh vegetables are easy to grow in a small garden space or even under fluorescent shop lights. Take up hunting and fishing; study the art of foraging. And when you buy, make it local.
Step Ten. Children learn more by osmosis and less by lecture. Help them do the work proper to them by not stooping to do it yourself. Triumph through struggle is the mother of self-esteem.
Step Eleven. Do you home school or send your children to private school? Attend a local school board meeting anyway, and learn how your tax money is spent. Find out what’s happening at city hall, and hold elected officials accountable. You needn’t run for office—a boar in the ointment is worth at least one in the mayor’s chair.
Step Twelve. Tell a neighbor about Distributism. Tell another one. And another. Once upon a time we were all Distributists, for Distributism is nothing more than the economy of the family. It is, we must repeat, the only system that works. Sustainable business practices and agriculture, holistic management, the return of stay-at-home mothering: these are not mere escapism from a world that is falling down around us. They are attempts to restore something we had and must have again if we are to survive. Best of all, Distributism is free.
Go here for your own copy of the Society for Distributism’s flyer for Occupiers (see image at top right).