Industry: The Distributist Solution
by Circle or Line
[M]ass-producing industries are not the solution to get the nation going. The revitalization of cottage industry is what we need in order to get the nation going; local economies; small firms; genuine relationships based on trust, reputation, love, dedication, and hard work. Cottage industry is about those closest to us: our households and communities; the rural towns; urban dwellers; real life and real people. Mass production breeds more mass production. Mass production does not see the value in the ‘thing’ created, but only how many quantities of that ‘thing’ produce token wealth.
Chesterton recognized how the powerful concentration of the mass production system severed widespread ownership, augmented the nation’s reliance on industry for its Gross Domestic Product, challenged the power of the State due to its size, and just how influential these large firms were in obtaining government subsidies and rescues (what we dub “too big to fail”), so that when they collapsed we collapsed with them. Unable to compete with the bargaining and lobbying powers of the factory, local production suffered as mass producers increasingly became the sole sources of wealth for local communities, paid unjust wages and offered unjust contracts to the worker, eliminated the ownership society, and, without loyalty to King or country, packed up and moved for greener pastures, leaving small towns in ruin as has become evident today in the United States.
Chesterton and the Distributists were micro-economists who understood that the smaller picture is the bigger picture. The answer to our problems is micro because life is micro. It begins with the family on a plot of land and continues down the rural road, past our neighbor’s home and straight to the market square. Solving the problem of the masses builds a system resistant to the fracturing of the national economy and the tyranny of the board of directors. It restores the stable economic foundations necessary for family life and puts man back in touch with his humanity so he may concentrate on virtuous living through compliance with the Divine law. And it is only from this norm that any larger industry can grow.
While most large-scale industries reduce the level of ownership in our society and treat labor as a cost instead of a partner in the production process, cooperatives are the Distributist answer to increase widespread ownership of the means of production. Cooperatives can restore the “Made in the USA” label, are the answer to the damage wrought by the North American Free Trade Agreement, and will mobilize workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas, raising American domestic production from the ashes.
Cooperatives are not just fascinating because they serve as the Distributist approach to medium and large-scale industry. They, like G.K. Chesterton, rekindle the imagination.