Friday, June 11, 2010

Economics that Preserve and Prosper

Thomas E. Woods, a gentleman that I have discoursed with briefly and found to be polite and generous, discussed distributism in 2002 in an essay entitled What's Wrong with "Distributism".  According to the title one might assume that he dismissed the entire notion in preference for the libertarian staple of free-market capitalism.  

True enough his points seems to ring true with a reasonable assessment of distributism.   But whether one accepts his arguments of the value of one system compared to the other one fact is undeniable.

We have a capitalist system and the current system can only be changed via a total collapse of the current paradigm or through massive government intervention to force a change.  Who among us is willing to consider giving more power to the government to implement an new economic system?  To even consider such would be the antithesis of good judgement.  Any power given to the for the purpose of "good" almost always turns to evil eventually.

 However Woods does acknowledge that distributism may have a place:

"Those who care to support locally based and smaller-scale agriculture have already been doing so for two decades now by means of community-supported agriculture, which is booming.  On a purely voluntary basis, people who wish to support local agriculture pay several hundred dollars at the beginning of the year to provide the farmer with the capital he needs; they then receive locally grown produce for the rest of the year. The organizers of this movement, rather than wasting their time and ours complaining about the need for state intervention, actually did something: they put together a voluntary program that has enjoyed considerable success across the country. Perhaps, if distributists feel as strongly about their position as they claim, this example can provide a model of how their time might be better spent."

And it would seem that the very answer to preserving some of what is good while securing a sustainable system. There is but one problem with this notion - the same government power we rightly fear to support distributism is currently used to protect capitalist interest.  

One recent example, and there are others very similar circumstances, involving the Hershberger family shows that the state is not ready to allow the freedom of economic choice and freedom.  

The Hershberger's ran a dairy operation, they leased cows to their customers.  State law allows farmers and farm workers to drink raw milk, one of the products the family sold in their private store open only to lessees.  Those that leased the cows obviously had a stake in the capital of the farm and according to the letter of the law should be entitled to drink raw milk.   Not so in the eyes of the state.

It seems however, that on a microeconomics scale this is exactly the sorts of endeavors we should be undertaking.   As Woods points out in his dissection of distributism not all of us are qualified in temperament, skills or patience to own our own shops, farm our own land or tend our own herds.   However a cooperative arrangement on a small scale seems a marvelous method to provide quality goods locally, preserving community and tradition. 

I think a voluntary community based collective that supports provides stability and therefore protects families and traditions is Biblical. In Acts 4:32 we see an example of such a voluntary communion.  An agrarian cooperative that shared the cost of capital (land or livestock) in order to reap the benefits of the produce of the land would something a Christian could wrap his mind around.

It is time we began acting upon our convictions.  Separation from, secession from, a system that is not designed to respect the family of advance the individual is a good thing, a thing we can do right now in our communities.  

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