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Monday, October 8, 2012

Distributism 12 step program part 1

Recently I was reading an interesting article on the distributism 12 step program.  I felt that the steps could have a little more depth added to them.  The first step in the program was to begin thinking like a distributist.  They point out the distributist principle of subsidiarity, but what does that really mean.  Subsidiarity is a principle similar to the principles of E.F. Schumacher in the book small is beautiful.  Subsidiarity means that the higher should not usurp the power of the lower.  This can be thought of in many different ways.  The power of the state should not usurp the power of the city or county.  The power of the federal government should not usurp the power of the states.  Now this is only in cases in which the lower can sufficiently maintain order and complete its duties satisfactorily. 
There are many ways of looking at subsidiarity, but the essence can be condensed fairly easily.  The High should not usurp the power of the low.  The complex should not overtake the simple.  The remote should not usurp the local. 
Now, there are always arguments over what is beneficial or necessary.  No one adopts a complex system simply because of its complexity, but rather because they see some benefit.  Unfortunately, often we fail to see the full repercussions of our decisions. In addition, we rarely consider at which level things should be handled.  Often we simply want problems fixed, regardless of who decides. 
In politics, the 2 party system often fights over regulation or de-regulation, but rarely is there any consideration as to where the regulation should come from or who should make it.  Now obviously a business that has effects in multiple states cannot be sufficiently regulated by state government, but there are many areas in which state or even local governments could make better use of regulation, and could watch more closely than any federal regulation. 
The 12 steps of distributsim points to subsidiarity as the main way to think like a distributist.  However there is much more than subsidiarity at work for distributist  One aspect of distributist though is purpose.  Even the most stringent secularist can acknowledge that there is something different about mankind.  We have the ability to massively change our environment for good or for ill.  We seek purpose in our own lives whether we are the wealthiest in the world, or the poorest.  Distributism acknowledges this.  Both Capitalism and Socialism seem to reduce mankind to a machine, working for economics and nothing else.  We are more than cogs in a machine, partly because we do not see ourselves as only cogs in the machine.  Distributism is one of the only economic systems that treats mankind as people rather than simply economic machines. 
Distributism also proposes humility and limits.  Distributism realizes that humans are fallible, and as such we have the ability to make a mess of the things that we undertake.  If we are limited however, the problems that we create will also be limited.  Often the problems that we encounter are the result of ignoring human limits.  The amount of manure produced by the cattle on a homestead or farm becomes a source of fertilizer, while the same manure in concentrations of a feed yard, the same manure is so concentrated it forms a pollutant that causes huge amounts of destruction.  By seeking to limit economic activities, distributism seeks to limit the destruction our economics can cause.  The idea is that in general mankind is good and will improve, even though there are times when this is not the case.
And last but not least, Distributism believes in responsibility and solidarity.  The idea that our possessions are not completely our own is common through a range of cultures.  We inherit things from our ancestors, and borrow them from neighbors and our children  Distributism seeks to make people aware that they are not the utter end of their possessions.  Everything is oriented toward the common good.  This does not mean the abandonment of private property, but rather a sense of responsibility for the possessions that we do have. 

In conclusion, how can you start to think like a distributist?  First, think of subsidiarity.  What is the proper level for rules, regulation, government, and economics.  What are rights and duties proper to the family, which to the local government, which to civic organizations or guilds.  These questions are extremely important to any distributist thought.  Second, do you live your life with purpose, or do you act like a cog in a machine?  Have you investigated your own life and actions to try and discern the way in which you can change things in your own life, and thus change the world?  Do you investigate limits and think of what the proper limits and the proper growth are for things in your life?  Do you seek to grow your own wealth without limit?  Do you seek to influence others without limit?  Do you have the virtues of responsibility and solidarity with your fellow man?  Do you orient yourself and the things that you do toward the common good? Do you believe that you have anything to do with the common good?  Do you realize the advantages afforded you, and do you accept circumstances in your life with humility and gratitude?

 Once you start to think on these things in your daily life, you will have begun thinking like a distributist.

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