Thursday, October 26, 2006

How do I Become a Distributist?

If you are interested in Distributionism as a way of life, there are a few things you need to do. The first is to remember something another commentator said, “…distributists are by definition doers, not talkers…” As much as I may bloviate about Distributionism, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so actions are key.

The first action is simple; pay down your debt. Statistically, I am on firm ground when I assume you have debt. This debt is a form of pressure on you and your family that limits your freedom of choice. You and your spouse may want to simplify your lives and change jobs, but too much debt may prevent that from happening. There are many reputable guides to paying down debt available, please take advantage of them.

The next is to start saving money. Once again, statistics tell me I am safe to assume you do not have enough money in savings, so start putting it away. Related to these two, very closely, is the third step. Start living more frugally. This will increase your ability to pay down debt and increase savings.

“But Deep,” I hear, “I am already living on the edge! I can’t get blood from a turnip. And is saving money and paying debt really doing anything?”

I know from personal experience that there are times when you can’t do these three things – the debt is because of accident or illness that lingers, the savings are paying for food, and you are already so frugal the churchmice are bringing you food. I know. But – that won’t last forever! After it ends, hop to it or you will be back there again. The goal of Distributionism is to keep you from being there ever again, after all.

And being frugal, saving money, and eliminating debt is certainly ‘doing something’. It is allowing you freedom to choose to live as you want to live, to be independent, and to prepare for the things that will come up that no one can ever prepare for. Eventually you will be debt-free, have a comfortable amount of savings, and you will be able to redefine what ‘frugal’ means for you.

The next thing is to plan; plan for the future. Most people today have no idea how to be self-sufficient. I don’t just mean survival skills, or how to camp, I mean – run your own business, be a freelance contractor and never worry about work, be a tradesman. You know, practical, real-world skills that allow you to be independently employed. One popular option has always been what is maybe the simplest one – be a self-sufficient farmer. But never forget a maxim I learned in the Army: important things are simple, but simple things are hard. I grew up in the tall corn and I can tell you that homesteading is work, brother. It is also something anyone can do, if they have the right basic skills, patience, and a temperament that isn’t opposed to it. Especially if you can own the land outright being self-sufficient can require a surprisingly small amount of land.

Other options are the trades; one example is plumbers; they make a decent wage and future prospects for future employment. Or metalworking. Tons of jobs allow you to be a contractor. Including computer programming, web design, even management consulting. Start getting the education and contacts (and tools) you will need to work for yourself. Landscaping, photographer – somehow you need to have a plan to be either your own boss or an independent contractor with no fear of a dearth or work.

So you are saving and planning and training. I must admit, it can be hard to stick to such dry pursuits for an abstract, even if the abstract is the freedom of self-sufficiency. So in the meantime you can start doing other things in the Distributionist mold like:

Switch to a credit union instead of a bank; Shop at your local farmer’s market, join a consumers’ coop, and patronize locally-owned stores, all as much as possible; plant a vegetable and herb garden, even in the city; work with and/or donate to local charities; learn how to minimize your taxes legally; write to your local politicians about the issues of Distributionism (lower taxes on small business owners, fewer intrusive business regulations, lower or no farm subsidies) – or visit them for the same reasons!; meet your neighbors – no, the ones on the other side of the people next to you, too; teach your kids about economics, and saving, and make sure they have real-world job skills.

Never forget – this isn’t the perfect plan and Distributionism isn’t a guide to utopia. This will take time, there will be setbacks, and you may fail before you pull it off. The key is to stay focused on the goal – independence.

Addendum: Folks, this post is light on links, which is not usual for me. I struggled more in writing this than usual because I was afraid of sounding like I am telling people how they should live, or criticising people who don't do these things. This is my opinion, based on my research, of how to start putting Distributionism into practice. I am certain that there are plenty of Distributists who disagree with me on points, let alone people who don't agree with Distributivist concepts! This post is no more than a response to the hypothetical question 'how would you start?' Please take it as such.


Dana said...

I don't know much about distributionist anything, but I do know that the borrower is slave to the lender. Not that we're the greatest on this issue or anything, but my former job brought me pretty personal with several families. Two struggled with extensive debt. One was at risk of losing their home. Both made over 100k per year...about three times our income at the time.

There are always situations outside of one's control, but mostly, people are in debt because they want things that they cannot afford. Or they want things now and are unwilling to wait until they've saved enough.

Gen Ferrer said...

Hi Dana,

Certainly budgeting and frugality is missing from society and in that we are agreed. Distributism calls for a return to thrift.

That said, debt in society is amassed by the simpliest things like say -purchasing a home. The usurious mortgage system that charges interest not once or even twice the value of the principal, but in some cases 4-5 times that value.

When we think about the family, the core of Catholic economics, we must look to the past.

Even something as simple as 30 years ago where most households were one income and 1/4 or at the most 1/3 of a monthly salary was set aside for mortgage payments. Though I would still make issue with the loaning industry in general, what is it today? As you know, most households are run on two incomes for the simpliest lifestyle with one income alone being set aside for repayment on home loans.

I invite you to visit my site We have an archive that is constantly being updated with articles from all over the web on distributism.

Also, a great online news site with a distributist p.o.v.

Pax Tecum

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