Sunday, July 22, 2007

The New Laws

by Gen Ferrer

One of the pop criticisms launched against Distributism is the one of enlarging the State or allegedly supporting further government intervention in the lives of it's citizens through the implementation of laws curbing Big Business. Their claim is that Distributism would only create increasingly bureaucratic avenues limiting the rights of the entrepreneur and robbing the consumer of value (value defined as quantity at low cost, not quality).

The State, they say, has no right to take away freedom of choice.

There is certainly a little irony in those words, especially coming from Catholics.

Truth is uncomfortable. In modern society, truth is pushed to a distance, forgotten or better yet ignored for the sake of choice. But choice does not change the intrinsic nature of anything. I may choose to believe fetuses are not living organisms but it does not change the fact they are living. I may choose to believe an undeveloped organism is less worthy of life than an organism in its 30's and ignore that I, a 33 year old, am still not fully developed.

This leads us back to the original criticism. Is it true Distributism seeks to generate a larger State than we already have in the Western World? Is it like socialism, looking to micro-manage the market and eliminate the choices of the average consumer?

All of us can recognise our local and federal laws could feed a nation with all the pork found in them. There are laws for just about everything, from what constitutes a drug to what districts may permit variance in home architecture. Distributism doesn't seek to peddle more laws into the books, but rather to remove most of the laws we have and institute laws to protect its citizens from abuses found in minority citizenry with the majority wealth. Majority wealth, as found in post-Revolution countries, while the rest of its citizens stood in line at the bread market.

This was the great prophecy of Gilbert Keith Chetserton. He could see capitalism slipping into socialism and depending on federal control for its very existence. What greater example of this than the exportation of our manufacturing and services? No longer can the capitalist hide behind the mantra of exporting capitalism to communist nations when anyone can open their eyes to see the capitalists need these nations to remain communist.

Those who choose to believe Distributism creates an obstacle to economic growth (while we freely admit economic growth is secondary to man's spiritual growth) fail to view laws and/or incentives promoting self-ownership liberate the stimulation of the economy. It creates self-sustainment even if its primary focus isn't the GNP. Laws that are on the side of the small business owner, government encouraging private ownership (versus public ownership) and inheritance are beneficial to the sustainment of the family, which is the cornerstone of society.

Today most citizens of the West insist laws only benefit the common man by allowing vendors, who consider employment a matter of cost to be reduced, to sell necessary goods at the lowest price without acknowledging the direct hit to labour, whether white or blue collar. There is a cemented refusal to see the consumer and labourer is one and the same. The greatest failure of foresight has been our own, the average citizen so bent on the short term we purposely ignore the long. A small few have literally banked on this intentional blind faith and for a taste of leasing cheap replicas of wealth we have surrendered.

Distributism believes only local regulation and local economics is the future of mankind because it isn't afraid to look to the past. Certainly this requires new laws, but it also means the restoration of old laws and cutting away the majority of ones we currently have.Distributists realise the global economy is only vital to the (minority) wealthy. Those who control the sweatshops, the day labourers, and the natural resources of this earth gab about how important this shift in focus is for Westerners, yet local economy matters to the majority struggling to afford a house, spend time with their kids, take the family to Mass and offer their creativity to God through self-ownership


Kevin said...

When you talk of local regulation and local economics, I can't see how you imagine this all working. If you get rid of the higher-level regulations altogether, no matter how many local communities buy into the distributist model, you'll always have a couple of rougue locations that permit large businesses. Through information technology it is ever easier for these businesses to market and ship their goods into the distributist realms at lower prices.

Gen Ferrer said...

Dear Kevin,

Not necessarily does lower prices mean a successful venture. Look at the success of communities like Ithaca, New York which has its own currency (Ithaca Hours). This was used to combat the big businesses (which are still there for right now) and to raise awareness in the community concerning local economics and its significance to societal life.

Information technology is still there, big box companies are as well, however there is a greater awareness on the part of Ithaca citizens and the Hours have been a success.

No one, not even Chesterton ever assumed Rome would be built in a day Kevin. What we are suggesting is persusion of the general public and then those laws to reflect the will of the people.

Kevin said...

Quoting GF
"Not necessarily does lower prices mean a successful venture."

Well look, substitute whatever it is about those businesses you don't like for "lower prices" and the objection remains. Local regulation isn't going to stop big businesses who can set up shop just outside the jurisdiction. I don't think an illusionary local currency is going to stop that. Do these people have their retirement savings in the local currency?

Gen Ferrer said...

Actually 10 banks from Sheffield to Great Barrington, MA exchange Berkshares, another form of currency like Ithaca Hours, and while I am unaware of them offering any incentive for future retirement, the future is full of possibilities.

What I think you and I disagree in this issue is whether or not a local community can stop another local community from having arrangments with big business, however, 'the new laws' assumes a future where particular local communities or even regions, addressing the changes in local attitude towards consumption, implement laws to protect small business.

Athanasius said...

In the old days there was a very simple solution to protect local business, a simple tariff on imported goods that competed unfairly with what was produced locally. It is more than a simple enough solution to solve the problem Kevin addresses. Big business can do whatever it wants within city limits, but local business will still be protected.

Athanasius said...

Incidentally, that is a tariff on what is produced locally, not on goods not produced in the region. A small town in Kansas need not have a tariff on coffee beans that it can not grow locally, because it serves no purpose conducive to the common good of society, namely of maintaining a man's livelihood as protecting a corn grower in the same town from cheap foreign corn.

Kevin said...

Wonderful now you will have corn prices artificially inflated, but only in places where corn is grown! That will really bolster the economy. If somebody starts growing wheat in town, all of the sudden there will be a wheat tariff, and prices will go up on wheat too. That farmer will be real popular.