what is distributism?

distributism triangle of economic systems
Excerpt from: Distributism: Past, Present and Future - "At a time when the advocates of the statutory corporation school of state socialism, and their 'greed is good' counterparts in the corporate sphere, have simultaneously, permanently and irrevocably discredited themselves, the way is open for distributism to assume the major role to which its merits so plainly entitle it. What has been identified mistakenly by some as marking an end to history, instead marks potentially the birth of new opportunities and applications for distributism."
Successful Distributist Model MONDRAGON Co-Operatives

…"Don José Maria Arizmendiarrieta, (made) distributism work, through the great worker co-operatives complex that he established at Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain. The essentials of the Mondragon story: From a standing start in 1956, the Mondragon co-operatives have grown to the point where they are now the largest business group in the Basque region of Spain, the seventh largest business group in Spain and a major competitor in European and global marketplaces. What began forty-five years ago as a handful of workers in a disused factory, using hand tools and sheet to make oil-fired heaters and cookers, has now become a massive conglomerate of some 160 manufacturing, retail, financial, agricultural, civil engineering, service and support co-operatives."

…"To what then are the achievements of the MCC attributable? Firstly, the success of the co-operatives stems from the fact that every permanent worker is an equal co-owner of the co-operative where he is employed, with an equal say on a one-member-one-vote basis in the governance of the co-operative and an equal proportionate share in its profits or, on occasion, losses. The key distributist objective of a well-judged distribution of property has been achieved in Mondragon. Members of the co-operatives have property of four kinds:

  • ownership of their jobs
  • direct personal ownership of the balances held for them in individual capital accounts, which earn additional income for them through interest to which they have regular access
  • a shared ownership of the assets of their co–operatives, such as buildings, equipment and reserves, for whose governance and management they are directly responsible; and
  • a further shared ownership — albeit less direct — of the secondary support co–operatives in which the primary co–operatives are major stakeholders."

"Nowhere else in the world has ownership of property been established on so well–distributed, diverse and entrenched a basis. In the words of a recent CEO of the MCC, Javier Mongelos, 'The workers who own these co-operatives know their future depends on making profits'."

Excerpt from: Distributism: Economics as if People Matters -- Von Ketteler, also, in his book Christianity and the Labor Problem, attacks the supremacy of capital and the reign of economic liberalism as the two main roots of the evils of modern society. Both represented the growing ascendancy of individualism and materialism, twin forces that were operating to "bring about the dissolution of all that unites men organically, spiritually, intellectually, morally, and socially." Economic liberalism was nothing but an application of materialism to society. "The working class are to be reduced to atoms and then mechanically reassembled. This is the fundamental generative principle of modern political economy." What Ketteler sought to remedy was "This pulverization method, this chemical solution of humanity into individuals, into grains of dust equal in value, into particles which a puff of wind may scatter in all directions." Bishop von Ketteler's solution to this problem of the pulverization of the work force and the ensuing injustice which this would inevitably breed, was to propose an idea which was the central concept of medieval and post-medieval economic life, the guild system. When responding to a letter from a group of Catholic workers who had submitted the question "Can a Catholic Workingman be a member of the Socialist Worker's Party?," Bishop von Ketteler outlined the basic structure of these vocational guilds or Berufstandische:

  • First, "The desired organizations must be of natural growth; that is, they must grow out of the nature of things, out of the character of the people and its faith, as did the guilds of the Middle Ages."
  • Second, "They must have an economic purpose and must not be subservient to the intrigues and idle dreams of politicians nor to the fanaticism of the enemies of religion."
  • Third, "They must have a moral basis, that is, a consciousness of corporative honor, corporative responsibility, etc."
  • Fourth, "They must include all the individuals of the same vocational estates."
  • Fifth, "Self-government and control must be combined in due proportion."
The guilds which von Ketteler was advocating were to be true social corporations, true vocational "bodies" which were to have a primarily economic end, and yet, be animated by the "soul" of a common faith. These "bodies," just like all organic entities, would be made up of distinct parts all exercising a unique role in their particular trade. In the days of corporate giants and trade unions, it is, perhaps, impossible to imagine vocational organizations which include both owners and workers, along with technicians of all types. These organizations would regulate all aspects of their particular trade, including wages, prices for products, quality control, along with certifying that all apprentices has the requisite skills to adequately perform the guild's particular art.
Modern Distributist Solution: How to Start A Worker Co-op Worker coops can be more satisfying than working for the man. Worker-owners aren't forced into a hierarchy, and they have more say over what the business does than traditional employees. You still have to be responsible managing a coop, maybe more so, but your coworker-owners will likely be nicer and more understanding of personal needs and quirks than middle-management at any corporation.
a Classic DISTRIBUTIST Reading list

Historical (Popular) Distributists: Hilaire Belloc, Cdr. Herbert Shove, George Maxwell, G.K. Chesterton, Arthur Penty, H.J. Massingham, Eric Gill, Harold Robbins, Father Feeney, Father Coughlin, the contributors to I'll Take My Stand and Who Owns America?

Free online books by Distributist authors
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