Wednesday, September 28, 2011

William Thomas Thornton and Distributism, Part II

Given all that we said in yesterday's posting, there still seems to be a strong affinity between Thornton's goal and that of distributism. That makes it all the more baffling as to why neither Chesterton nor Belloc, nor any of their latter day followers have done any serious investigation of Thornton's proposal or, especially in light of the current economic problems and the general failure to advance the goal of establishing "the Distributist State," of the Just Third Way as applied in Capital Homesteading.

One possibility presents itself. It appears that Chesterton and Belloc accepted without question the disproved dogma that you can't finance new capital formation without first cutting consumption. Under that assumption most people are permanently cut off from ownership if they rely on existing financial tools and institutions that depend on past savings.

To their credit, Chesterton and Belloc refused to consider the dishonest Keynesian expedient of "re-editing the dictionary," that is, changing the definition of natural rights such as life, liberty, and property. Consequently they may have felt they had no choice but to retreat into a romantic Never-Could-Be Land and hope things would get better after the inevitable crash.

Chesterton, Belloc and their followers could — and do — assuage their frustrations by poking feathers at the obvious fallacies on which the Powers-that-Be rely. The most obvious, of course, is the belief in the necessity of concentrated ownership of capital. The latter day distributist, however, continues to ignore the most obvious fallacy of all that makes concentrated ownership seemingly inevitable: the slavery of past savings.

The presumed necessity of past savings to finance new capital formation can excuse the lack of action and general ineffectiveness of the distributist movement. Failure of the rich to open their purses for the benefit of others can be blamed on the personal greed and lack of virtue on the part of the capitalist or politician. The necessity of organizing in social justice for the common good and restructuring such basic institutions as money and credit can then be ignored, trivialized, or set aside as impracticable in light of the presumed lack of virtue on the part of the people in power.

Another possibility is that the very specificity of Thornton's proposal and Capital Homesteading might strike the modern distributist as just a little . . . unclean. Thornton's continual references to manure are . . . well, perhaps just a little too . . . earthy, if you know what I mean. As for Capital Homesteading, all that talk about natural rights and duties and rigid insistence on the right definition and what it means . . . so judgmental . . . money and credit, and all those complicated financial transactions and institutions . . . isn't money the root of all evil? People should just share what they have, right? and everyone would have enough, right?

As a matter of fact, that is right — and what people should be sharing are viable ideas like Thornton's proposal and Capital Homesteading that have the promise of turning things around.

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