Vital Signs

Practical Distributism

Distributism is a Catholic social philosophy that, as Thomas Storck writes, “seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life.”  Unfortunately, distributism is frequently debated or discussed in terms of macroeconomics—a national economic system.  But the more important activity is already occurring at the microeconomic level: the family or small business level, where distributism is put into practice on a routine basis.  There is more to economics than macroeconomics.

The root of economics, the Greek oikonomia, refers to household management, an area of inquiry within microeconomics.  This has not stopped critics, the curious, and even proponents from trying to place distributism in a macroeconomic straitjacket, defining its legitimacy in terms of “society.”  Eric Pavlat writes in Crisis (July 2010),

Perhaps I have a skewed vision of Distributism.  But when I try to envision a Distributist society, I see a town in the Wild West.  The federal government is so distant as to be 90 percent irrelevant. There’s a general store, a bar, an inn, a post office, a sheriff’s office, and a blacksmith.  Maybe a cobbler and leatherworker, too.  Ooh, and a barber.

The curious also confine their thinking on distributism...

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