In our last episode (i.e., the previous posting on this subject) we mentioned that when we got around to addressing this subject again that we’d try and get to the point. So, let’s ask again, “Are distributism and the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism compatible?” Our starting point for today’s discussion is G.K. Chesterton’s description of distributism as a policy of widely distributed private ownership of capital, with a preference for small, family-owned farms and artisan businesses.
That’s something of a paraphrase, not an exact quote. So sue us.
|Hilaire "Old Thunder" Belloc|
So, yes, we who promote the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism are explicitly in favor of widespread capital ownership. No one here (or, at least, no one who is speaking up) seems to have any problems with what Chesterton said. Hilaire Belloc’s views on, and understanding of money are, we believe, inadequate, but that’s nothing that can’t be discussed.
For a short time we did describe CESJ’s “Just Third Way of Economic Personalism” as distributist, but it appeared to “upset” some distributists, apparently those influenced by R.H. Tawney (England’s premier socialist, according to one biographer, and head of the Fabian Society from 1920 to 1933), E.F. Schumacher (member of the Fabian “inner circle,” and author of Small Is Beautiful, “The New Age Guide to Economics”), and other Fabian socialists.
We were informed rather curtly some years ago by a leading Chestertonian (name not available on request as the individual seems to be a trifle . . . irritable, even a mite Shavian, with anyone who disagrees with him) that what CESJ advocates, “Is not our way.” Others perhaps took their cue from that, so we refrained afterwards from calling ourselves distributist.
|CESJ co-founder Fr. William Ferree|
Then there was what to some people is the insurmountable problem that CESJ is interfaith. True, we integrate the social doctrine of the Catholic Church into the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism, but this is explicitly based on natural law . . . the Aristotelian-Thomist version, anyway. Catholic social teaching therefore applies to every human being, not just Catholics. We also use Fr. William Ferree’s analysis of the act of social justice, which disagrees completely with the socialist understanding of the virtue.
Thus, regarding the characterization of distributism or anything else as THE ONE AND ONLY CATHOLIC SYSTEM (trumpet blast), we take our lead from the solidarist economist Dr. Franz Mueller, a student of Fr. Heinrich Pesch. As he, er, hinted, any science, including economics, that needs religion as a crutch probably isn’t good science.
To some, however, distributism is a (or THE) CATHOLIC system, and outsiders are not welcome, particularly when they are Jews, no, we didn’t make that up. Maybe Chesterton was or wasn’t anti-Semitic (we won’t argue one way or ’tother), but one or two somewhat vocal Chestertonians appear to have very decided opinions on that head.
|Dr. Rupert Ederer, best selfie EVER|
One allegedly Catholic economist in an article once presented a number of economists with whom he disagreed, carefully identifying them as Jewish, then commented,
I cite the Jewishness of these scholars to make it clear that their social thinking has nothing in common with Catholic social teachings. Their ideology approaches the “social question” from the opposite direction of Karl Marx, also a secularized Jew. (Rupert J. Ederer, “Just Wage Doctrine: What Happened?,” Culture Wars magazine, May 2005, 27.)
You read that verbatim quote correctly. According to Dr. Ederer, Catholic social teaching based on the natural law written in the heart of every human being “has nothing in common” with the social thinking of “these scholars” solely and exclusively because of their “Jewishness.”
Evidently in Dr. Ederer’s book (the title of which, Economics As If God Matters, alluded to E.F. Schumacher’s Fabian socialist/New Age Guide to Economics: Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered), Jews do not have the natural law written in their hearts, and so are not human. We did mention some slight incidence of Jew-hating in certain circles, didn’t we?
|Fr. Charles Coughlin & Mouth|
To be honest, however, while the late Dr. Ederer is certainly revered by some who call themselves distributists and self-identify as Chestertonians, we note that he himself regarded distributism as romantic nonsense. We have his letter to the Wanderer newspaper to that effect somewhere in our files, but are too lazy to dig it out to support a trivial point. He was also a BNF (that’s “Big Name Fan” in Muggle speech) of Gertrude Coogan, the economic advisor to the Jew-baiting “Radio Priest” Father Charles Coughlin.
Finally — and a key point — unlike virtually all distributists and adherents of the mainstream schools of economics, we are not “Currency Principle,” but “Banking Principle.” As a result, we advocate advanced methods of finance to empower people without existing savings or sufficient income to purchase new capital. Capital can be purchased on credit by monetizing the present value of the future stream of income instead of issuing government debt or redistributing existing wealth.
Anyway, pretty much everything about the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism is very upsetting to anyone who forgets that the first principle of distributism as expressed by Chesterton is (or should be) respect for the dignity of the human person, not the State, the rich, the poor, or any other abstraction.