Dear Occupy Wall Street: Your Message Is Distributism

by Circle or Line

Dear Occupy Wall Street: the media complain that you have no message. But you do, and you know it. The message is just not clear.

You want the economy to serve the people, and not the reverse. Pretty clear, pretty simple, I think. But you say that and your opponents call you simplistic. So the message needs to get less abstract, more concrete. It’s doable – because it’s already been done.

You might not know your message has a long history in Western ethics and economics. It’s called distributism.

Distributism simply says that private property ought to be distributed widely. It should not be eliminated as in communism, nationalized as in socialism, or concentrated in private hands as in capitalism. (Really these economics systems all concentrate wealth, either in the state or private hands – distributism opposes this.) Distributism is a “third way” economic theory (or fourth, or more, if you are counting).

Distributist ideas are old. They can be found in Aristotle’s Politics from 23 centuries ago, where Aristotle argued that the middle class should be protected and encouraged to flourish (they are the virtuous social mean, after all). Distributist ideals are currently mostly strongly presented by some groups of Catholics, but the message has no innately religious component. This is economics, not metaphysics. Anyone can be a distributist, and many people are and just don’t know it.

Plus distributism is just common sense.

Concentrating wealth concentrates power and facilitates injustice (like injustice needs facilitating). So distribute power more widely. Injustice becomes more difficult.

The current distributist movement is small and idiosyncratic. Don’t let that scare you. Let that encourage you: they need and want your voice! The idea is too good to be kept to a few people. Good ideas are to be shared.

Plus, like I said, you may already be a distributist and just not know it. Just start using the word.

So this is the distributist message to the Occupy Wall Street protesters: your message is distributism. Now you have a clear message. Problem solved. You may now inform the media.

The Moral Mindfield