To the Citizens and Nobles of Edan and the Peoples of all the World, Greetings.
We are aware that the current economic shock is affecting many people, even most people, all over the world in a negative way; many people have lost employment, have lost homes, face a future of decreased actual income and increased prices, and face a lack of credit.
This last element of the crisis, a ‘lack of credit’, actually tells us all a great deal about the origins of the current crisis. For many decades legions of economists, scholars, and political leaders of the secular world have insisted that there are only two ways to approach the economy – Communism/Socialism on the one hand, and laissez faire Capitalism on the other.
This is a false dichotomy born of Modernism/Naturalism. In reality, both sides of this equation share a common element in that each system treats human beings as means to ends; Communism/Socialism treats people as a means to labor, Capitalism treats people as a means to profit. This failure to recognize people as ends in themselves fatally undermines each outlook. The inevitable result is that these economic theories’ conflict with reality leads to economic disruptions. In the face of these disruptions, leaders who embrace these theories try to alleviate the stress.
But the champions of the false dichotomy have been so successful in the academies and parliaments of the world that as each system fails (as they must) the response is either to meld the two or to declare that ‘proper Communism/Capitalism has not yet been tried, so we must become more extreme in our devotion to an ideal Communism/Capitalism’.
The long term effects of melding the two systems are to diminish what strengths they each have apart and to magnify their separate weaknesses. The short terms effects of extremist positions are the sacrifice of human dignity and even life upon the altar of a false ideal of economics. For example, adding some elements of Capitalism to a primarily Communist system does provide an immediate, albeit minor, increase in personal autonomy to the citizens of the state in question. However, the long term effect is to increase the economic system’s need for growth, resulting in greater disruptions eventually limiting the choices available to people within the system as effectively as Communist controls. Similarly, adding Communist-style centralized controls to a Capitalist system creates some immediate relief from the never-ending demand for accelerating growth, but at the expense of the autonomy that makes choices available for individuals, meaning the next, unavoidable, economic disruption will be more severe because people have fewer and fewer means of preparing for and reacting to economic issues.
Thus we return to the current ongoing collapse of the global markets. On one economic pole of this global economy is the United States, a nominally Capitalist country that has embraced Socialist practices for decades. The other pole is China, a nominally Communist nation that has embraced Capitalist practices for decades. The other nations of the world, broadly speaking, fall somewhere between these two economic powerhouses. In every nation the results are the same, if differing slightly in emphasis; the economy is predicated upon the Capitalistic basis of perpetual growth and guided with the Communist goal of replacing personal responsibility with a form of collective will. a will defined and enforced by the state, leading to limited personal autonomy.
The United States suffers more from a requirement of perpetual growth and China more from a decline in individual autonomy, but each is facing the same barrier – the failure of their theories in the face of reality. The reaction of political and academic leaders has reflected the habit of Modernism to reject reality in favor of theory. Thus the United States is attempting to force growth by expending vast sums in what seems to be an attempt to, as one American leader phrased it, ‘spend their way out of bankruptcy’. China is currently waiting to see how the United States’ gambit works, but are almost certainly prepared to further limit their people in an attempt to, again, force growth by giving even more power to the people that created the current crisis.
This growth simply cannot happen for one simple reason – fewer people. Modernism’s embrace of the idea of people as means rather than ends has so devalued human life that Modernists stopped having children in normal quantity generations ago. Now there are fewer people of working age than of retirement age, a trend that will continue for decades. In the face of a reduced demand for everything from houses to hats the economy cannot do what Capitalism demands it do – grow. Communism’s control of people is so inefficient and onerous that it tends to delay the collapse, but exacerbate it when it does finally arrive. In the end, the Modernism that accompanies both Capitalism and Communism/Socialism dooms both.
But, what then are we left to do? If we have rejected Communism/Socialism and Capitalism, what is left?
The answer is Distributism. Distributism is based upon Catholic social teaching, a cornerstone of which is the idea that people are always ends in and of themselves. The core ideas of Distributism are quite simple;
1. All men have a right to private property, to just compensation for their goods and labor, and to
enter into business agreements – including employment – of their own free will.
2. Private ownership of property and work are good both for the individual and society as a whole. Work can be physical, artistic, or intellectual.
3. That responsibility and decision-making should be ‘pushed down’ as close to the individual as possible; a national government is less efficient at and less capable of making good decisions than the regional government, the region less so than the municipality, etc. down to the family itself.
4. Private organizations are better at getting things done than governments or their agencies; smaller groups are generally better than larger; individuals and families over all are the best.
5. The more local, the better.
6. All families should be as self-sufficient as possible.
7. Coops and Guilds are preferred over corporations and unions. This also means credit unions are to be preferred over banks.
8. When engaged in business-to-business ventures, avoid middle-men and deal as directly as possible with the end client/end user.
9. Government welfare programs are to be eliminated whenever possible, reduced or avoided otherwise.
10. There is no utopia, and there never will be.
As is plainly evident, these economic principles require neither perpetual growth nor strong central control. But the greatest difference between Distributism and either Communism/Socialism and Capitalism is that its focus is not upon product (be it labor, goods, or profit), but on people. This acceptance of reality, this acknowledgment that ‘economics’ is really just people living their lives, is why Distributism is the answer to the current economic crises; because the crises isn’t truly about economics, but actually about how we think of and treat people.
Since Distributism was first described various people and groups have called it a ‘Third Way’ of economics. The Catholic Church has continually denied that it is, indeed, the third way. We believe that this is for one simple reason.
It is the only way.
Given by our hand this 24th day of July in the year 2009 Anno Domini
Ricardus Rex Edani