The American Conservative on Distributism

The magazine The American Conservative has published a nice article on distributism called Distributism is the Future.  It’s a well written piece offering a brief introduction to distributism as an economic philosophy and then gives some modern day examples of how we see distributist ideas at work today.  The author shows why distributism is not socialism or capitalism but is a “third way” as some have called it.  Distributism was chiefly taught by GK Chesterton and Hillarie Belloc, sometimes these two are referred to as “Chesterbelloc.”  These two “rejected socialism, believing that private property was an essential component of human flourishing, but they also rejected the existing capitalist system as concentrating private property in far too few hands.”  

The author sums up one of the aspects of distributism I’m drawn to, which is the conservative nature of the teaching.  Distributism favors communities and families over the good of the multinational corporation.  I’ll let the author sum it up:

And finally—something that Belloc stressed—distributism has a conservative aspect: it posits as a laudable end not some utopian experiment in untested social arrangements but a socio-economic system that we already know is workable, from both historical and contemporary evidence. Furthermore, because workers themselves are the owners of capital goods, they are less likely to be forced to abandon their communities and extended families in order to keep a good job. There of course may be efficiency trade-offs in choosing to stay put rather than moving to some distant but more profitable location to find some work. But under distributism, workers would evaluate these trade-offs for themselves, rather than having some global corporate entity send them, willy-nilly, thousands of miles from their family and community—or finding themselves suddenly unemployed, as the modern corporation is loath to give its workers even a moment’s notice before they are escorted out of their workplace and onto the street by corporate security.

The author goes on to provide a few examles from around the globe that show Distributist ideas can and do work the real world and may be becoming more prevalent.  

I’m glad to see a conservative magazine picking up on the ideas of distributism.  I hope this is a trend that continues. 

Various Responses to Joe Carter’s TGC article on Abortion – Updated

Joe Carter wrote an article today for TGC responding to Donald Trump’s recent statements on how there should be consequences for a woman who has an abortion, if the practice were to be outlawed.  The responses from Justin Taylor, Russell Moore, and Denny Burk, and others have been disappointing. I haven’t seen any reasoned arguments from them appealing to scripture to support their positions.  Instead, each of these men appeal to legal history.  Ironically, Russell Moore’s post has a picture at the top of a person holding a “Justice for All” but then he shows in his article he has little sense of justice.   

I’ve decided to show and/or link to a few well thought out responses to these Joe Caetee.  The first is from Jeff Durbin, pastor of Apologia Church and host of Apologia Radio and Apologia TV.  This is from his Facebook page:

While the The Gospel Coalition’s article abandons any meaningful commitment to the Biblical Worldview (and the Gospel) in its recent article about abortion, here is what a beloved sister at Apologia Church had to say about it:

“Let me put some light on the subject…it isn’t pretty light…but it is light. Abortion is murder. It baffles me how murder committed by other means always has some sort of punishment that is usually embraced by the majority of society. Commit a crime…do the time. As a woman, who has this atrocious crime in her past, and is still here walking the earth by the grace of God and the redemption at the cross…I can without a doubt say I committed a crime, and I deserve any punishment that would come my way. See, the fact is most women and men do NOT want to admit that abortion should be punishable because most men/women do NOT want to be held accountable for this sin…and the lifestyle that comes with it. AND, most men and women do NOT want to admit that God is the sole Creator of life…because that gives HIM the glory and the ultimate say in this conversation. And, I bet, many of these people have this crime in their background. Time for talking tough…we are talking about babies being slaughtered on demand.”

Next, here is RC Sproul Jr.’s response–also found on Jeff Durbin’s Facebook page:

Joe, I’m afraid that what you have given us is more a legal history lesson than it is a reasoned moral argument. If I might summarize- a. they didn’t used to prosecute women. b. if women are charged they would be less likely to testify against the abortionist. c. Punishing women is vengeful. None of those arguments deal with the real question of whether women who hire someone to murder their unborn child should be charged with a crime. a. History is not our guide, the Bible is. In addition, it is highly likely that the principle reason why women were not charged was due to a flawed view of moral agency for women. b. criminals are often given lesser sentences for testifying against their co-conspirators. That doesn’t mean they are not guilty of a crime the state should prosecute. c. It is the God ordained function of the state to punish evildoers. Women who hire people to murder their unborn children are evildoers who should come under the purview of God’s ministers of justice. Please, rethink this piece.

Third, here is an article from the blog “The Reformed Collective” entitled TGC and the Failed Pro-Life Movement.  I’ll just quote a short selection of it.  Joe Carter asks first if women were treated as criminals before Roe v. Wade:

No, sir, you have already started on ground made of sinking sand. Does Joe Carter, a writer for the Gospel Coalition, actually believe that’s the first question we should ask here? An appeal to recent history? This has got to be an April fools, right? It is vividly obvious that Joe Carter has neglected Scripture as his authority, and has sought authority from the American judicial system and the history thereof, instead. This is truly a tragedy.

Carter, in his article appeals again to recent history but not scripture.  Josh Sommer correctly states:

Again, he returns to a secularized foundation in order to substantiate his argument, that women should virtually hold no responsibility in the crime of abortion. Joe, I have a question for you, is this how you preach the Gospel? Do you not believe in the authority of Scripture? If you wouldn’t preach the Gospel this way, why would you consider justice, which is God’s, in such a way? In other words, how do you justify divorcing a very moral question from the Gospel itself?

How do you tear it away from the ultimate standard of God’s Law? At best, you have presented a popular, historical opinion here, but you have not appealed to any objective or absolute standard of morality in order to prove your point, nor can you do so until you interact with God’s Word.

A second look at Joe Carter’s article shows a reference to a National Review author, a reference to another TGC blogger, plenty of references to recent legal history, but no references to scripture.  Carter gives no biblical standard for any of his arguments.

Finally, this isn’t a response to Joe Carter but it is fitting for the moment.  The article is from Chronicles Magazine and  is title of the article is No Piety, No JusticeIt is written by Jerry Salyer.  Please take time to read the whole article as it exposes why the pro-life movement has failed as a whole.  I will quote one part of the article:

Am I alone in finding it painful to see pro-family theorists shackle themselves to a dry, traditionless idiom incapable of expressing that very aspect of abortion which is most deplorable? Going by typical right-to-life rhetoric Roe v. Wade is just about one set of abstract rights-bearing people receiving a license to kill another set of abstract rights-bearing people. In reality, Roe v. Wade is about mothers murdering their own children—that is to say, it is about murder at its foulest, strangest, and most unnatural.

Pastor Matt Trewhella over at LesserMagistrate.com has also written an article on the topic that is worth reading. He brings up a good point about simply labeling the woman a victim:

By refusing to criminalize the actions of the woman and instead labeling her a victim – we undermine both the humanity of the preborn child and the rightly stated argument that abortion is murder.

Distributism: Is it possible?

One criticism of distributism I’ve read and even thought of on my own is that it is too idealistic of a system to be implemented.  To have a distributist society our nation would need a complete reset of its economy, its capital, a reorienting of family life, and a return to a more agrarian lifestyle.  Most of our nation would need to return to the Lord, and our Chrsitian background since distributism is based on the biblical command to love thy neighbor which is hardly the goal of the capitalist or socialist society.

If you aren’t familiar with distributism here is a short definition:

I take Distributism to be the view that private property should be widely distributed in society, rather than concentrated in a few hands, in order to enable more or even most people to be able to take responsibility for their own families by means of productive and dignified work.

The more I read about distributism the more I desire a simpler life, to work for myself, to grow more of my own food, and support local business and small farmers in or around my community while patronizing big box stores less and less.  This article from the Distributist Review explains further ideas of how distributism can be implemented in our everyday lives.  The article identifies three ways to apply distributism to our daily lives.  

The first way to implement distributism is to communicate.  Most people are unaware of an economic option other than capitalism and socialism.  Share articles with people, talk to others about the ideas, and read more about it so you can communicate clearly.  

The second step is to practice distributism.  This is not as easy as simple communication as it involves more action and hard work.  One way to practice distributism are planting a garden to grow more of your own vegetables and fruits.  Also, consider purchasing food from a local food coop or local small farmer.  Distributism focuses on the community and goes beyond basic economics.  The author of the article writes, “Focus on more than economics. Distributism is about more than the process of exchange. Commitment to the community, particularly to those in need, is an integral part of Distributism.”

Third, become active in working for laws which will make distributism more probable.  This means working on a local level.  The author states:

Don’t neglect regional and national policies, but focus on local issues. Why are we forced to commute by zoning laws that require the separation of all businesses from residences? If you want to be a baker, why can’t you live in a house behind your shop? I can understand the isolation of certain industries that are particularly noisy or smelly, but that does not necessarily apply to the shoe shop or local grocer. If higher levels of government are blocking local change, tell them you believe they are harming the local community. (No politician likes to hear that.)

Finally, a fourth way to promote distributism, not found in the article, is taking responsibility for the education of your children.  While I was only taught the two schools of thought of capitalism and socialism, I have the opportunity to teach the ideas of distributism to my children and will do so.

Banking, Real Money, and Intrinsic Value

The great Ron Paul taught me everything I know about the immoral and unwise practice of fractional reserve banking on which our current banking system is built in his book End the Fed.  This book also opened my eyes to the Federal Reserve system and how it ultimately  benefits the banking elite.  In the book Dr. Paul also explains now he thinks a return to the gold standard would cure the problems which come along with the fractional reserve system.

How does a fractional reserve system work?  Tom Peaceworth sums it up nicely, though maybe a little too simply in his article “Credit for the Rest of Us” when he writes:

The way our current system of fractional reserve banking works, whenever a commercial bank makes a loan, it is counted as an asset rather than a liability of the bank, because ostensibly it is still deriving interest from it. But what actually happens is that the credit is created out of thin air, against a “fractional reserve” which is made up of the commercial bank’s deposits (its true liabilities).

Basically, when the bank gives you a loan, mortgage, etc. it is creating the money and then charging you interest on the money it just created.  The author calls this checkbook-credit.  The result is profits for the bank, but risks for the depositors.  Peaceworth writes, “they are socializing this shared risk but privatizing the gains from it, which accrue to the bank on interest. In the words of Wendell Berry, this process was literally ‘selling a bet on a debt as an asset.'”  We see the rotten fruit of this system in times such as in the crises of 2007.  Who paid the price?  Not the banks. 

But if, as happened in 2007, debts stop being paid back, banks very quickly call in their debts and refuse to lend any more, and the general economic trust on which the monetary system depended, collapses. The result of the use of checkbook-credit is that privately-run corporate banks can profit on all manner of risky and predatory lending projects right up until the point where they can’t get away with it anymore, and then insulate themselves from any of the consequences when it becomes apparent that the piper has to be paid somewhere (with something that doesn’t actually exist). The Joneses are the only ones who suffer from this collusion of Hudge and Gudge.

The reason I brought up Ron Paul at the beginning and how he argues bringing back the gold standard would prevent such things from happening is because Tim Peaceworth tries to show that this argument fails. Peaceworth argues that the Austrian school of economics, which Paul represents, are wrong when they argue that gold, when used as money, has intrinsic value. When you use gold as money you are depending on it being useful in further exchanges “the exact same way you would do with bank notes or checkbook-credit.”

I’m thankful for the article because it has caused me to think about the gold standard and fiat currency from a different perspective.  Many questions have persisted in my mind about the intrinsic worth of gold and other precious metals.  Will gold and silver really be valuable in the event of a terrible economic collapse?  I hope we never find out. 

Here is a link to the full article:

Credit for the Rest of Us?

Why do Christians support Trump?

First, this isn’t an endorsement of the Donald.  I haven’t made up my mind and I’m somewhere between Rand Paul and anyone but Marco Rubio.  

One thing that has been entertaining has been watching Trump upset all the right people including the neo-cons over at the National Review.  One thing that has interested is the  support from Pat Buchanan.  I haven’t seen an outright endorsement, but he certainly seems to also be enjoying his campaign.  One thing Pat Buchanan has been writing and warning about for a long time is mass immigration to America and the negative effects of it on our nation and our culture.  State of Emergency is an excellent and eye opening book on the issue.  

A few polls I’ve seen show a huge disconnect between evangelical leaders and the average evangelical (whatever that is).  I think one of the main issues is immigration and I think the article “Why are many Christians Supporting Trump?” explains it well:

Polls consistently indicate that the fundamental political concern for conservative Christians is the ­moral climate of the nation. So this argument is highly relevant for the values-based voter. And when objections to the kind of border security proposed by Trump invoke politically correct responses, as when Lindsay Graham called him a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” it only fuels the plausibility of such reasoning.

This is because I think there is what we might call a cultural sense among Christians that open borders means overturning values. In her highly influential study, Purity and Danger, the renowned social anthropologist Mary Douglas developed the critical connection between borders and bodies in human culture. She observed that cultural concerns about the body, such as taboo codes, ethical identity, and conceptions of purity, are frequently lived out as metaphors for larger social relationships and boundaries.[2] This last term, boundaries, is a key motif for Douglas, who theorized that each individual body within the group ‘body’ shares in the boundedness of the group, with the restrictions of the social macrocosm embodied and reflected in each individual corporal microcosm. For example, restrictions as to whom one may betroth reflect restrictions as to who may enter the society; proscriptions protecting bodily orifices symbolize preoccupations about social exits and entrances. The do’s and don’t’s regulating national boundaries are lived out personally via the moral codes inscribed on individual bodies.
If Douglas is correct, then there is a plausible cultural sense that open borders means open values. The perpetuation of unfettered immigration fulfills the political precondition for more liberal democratic social policies.

While this isn’t the only reason, I think this is a major reason for the amount of support seen among evangelicals for Trump.

Free Trade, Protectionism, and Distributism

I’ve always enjoyed economics ever since my 9th grade Econ class.  It’s always made sense to me and been easy to understand.  I’m no expert by any means, but I enjoy reading things here and there on the subject.  I was taught Keynesianism in school, became an Austrian economics fan thanks to the good doctor, Ron Paul, was then turned toward protectionist ideas by reading Pat Buchanan, and now have been reading much about Distributism.  Because of my history here I found this article from The Distributist Review to be interesting.  It does address some of my questions regarding free trade, capitalism and human nature, and protectionism.  I found this paragraph to be helpful in thinking of protectionism as protecting the capitalism of my own country. The author states:

Distributists are sometimes accused of being protectionists—when we’re not accused of being socialists. Protectionists recognize the need to protect jobs within their own country. They advocate using things like tariffs and subsidies to protect national businesses from foreign trade with countries that use forced labor, subsidize their companies, or where the people are so desperate they will work in awful conditions for nearly slave wages. However, the protectionists are merely trying to protect Capitalism within their own country. They accept the same outsourcing, job relocation, and consolidation of the control of productive capital as those who advocate Free Trade, but only within their own country. The real reason the American job machine is broken is the thing Free Trade and protectionism have in common: Monopolistic Capitalism.

Next, the author also sums up the ideals of Distributism which resonate with me:

Imagine instead being economically independent. What if you owned your job, either independently or cooperatively, instead of a huge company? What if the goods and services you need for your daily life were produced locally by people who also owned their own jobs. Imagine if the government was required to provide a stable currency. Imagine if there were still dozens of car manufacturers across the country who worked together on innovating new technologies, instead of the “Big Three” who bought out their competition. The overall national economy would be more stable because each local economy would be stable. The failure of one company would not have the ability to devastate an entire region. The common man would be economically free because he would own the means of producing his livelihood. This is what Distributism aims to achieve.

Here’s the link to the whole article if you’d like to read it:

http://distributistreview.com/the-economists-are-beginning-to-crack/