I recently sat down with Michael Thomas of Sharon to discuss distributism, and how it’s different as an economic system. He is a father, husband, homesteader, and traditional farmer. To find more of his work, you can check out the website for the Brickhouse Farm and Orchard. Michael is also an avid reader, which is how he came across distributism. Also, as a Catholic who believes a distributist economic model is closest to Catholic social teaching, he’s interested in sharing this idea more people.
What is Capitalism?
For this conversation, I went with Michael’s definition of capitalism. I don’t think it’s a perfect definition, but in order to show the differences in the economic models, I found it useful. He described capitalism as the belief that pursuit of accumulating capital or creating profit is the goal.
What is Socialism?
We defined socialism as a system where equality is the goal. Furthermore, it’s where equality is the goal, and where the state brings that about through command of the economy. Both of us dismissed socialism as a valid option because it wasn’t the topic and was obviously different from distributism.
What is Distributism?
Popularized by thinkers like Chesterton and Belloc, distributism is a system where the common good is the aim. In the distributist’s world, we promote the common good by having widespread property rights and not counting every action in dollars and cents. So, the distributist aims to get property in as many people’s hands as possible and tear down barriers to entrepreneurship. Basically, distributists argue for a fairly free market, but only if that market is ordered toward the good of the community.
How is Distributism Different?
Distributism, as Mike conveyed it, and capitalism as I imagine it didn’t seem too different. However, as our conversation progressed, I began to understand his distinctions better. For him, the distinction is what we hold as the highest good. Do we seek profit and capital at all costs? Or, do we say there are actions that can’t earn an income? However you define these terms, the discussion of these different systems was incredibly interesting.