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RE: Two Jims, Werner and Matt redefine socialism for their own en ds
> Matthew James Gering[SMTP:[email protected]] replied to a long
> rant, as by "Martinus Luther":
>> something like Belloc and Chesterton's "distributivism".
> Distribute what and created by whom? Need I point out the
> obvious fallacy that wealth is a static sum. It is not, wealth
> must be *created* before it exists to plunder and share.
Every libertarian or cypherpunk ought to have read "The Servile State"
by Hilaire Belloc. It is long polemic against socialism (or what
Belloc thought was Socialism), the welfare state & so on. Your ranter
obviously hads read the book, and in that context what is being
distributed is *land*, as private property to be lived on, farmed and
passed on to children.
> Abstract wealth and divorce it from the creator and you
> eliminate the motive to create. You can only live from plundered
> wealth so long before you slip into oblivion (see the Soviet Union).
I think Belloc would agree with you 100%.
See http://www.cs.wesleyan.edu/HTML/Grad_links/mdemarco/gkc/distrib/ for
links to pages on Distributivism.
Distributivism is usually regarded as a right-wing, conservative
political philosophy. Chesterton and Belloc didn't invent it but they
popularised it. It derived partly from a distaste for the State,
industry, trade unions and the modern world in general; partly from an
admiration of traditional rural life; partly from the English Christian
Socialism of the 19th century & partly from the Biblical idea of the
Jubilee, when debts were cancelled and the land redivided amongst the
families of the tribe. It is based on the idea that only free men who
own their own land and house really have a stake in society or a chance
at a good life. So in an ideal world ownership of property would be
distributed as widely as possible (hence the name).
Distributivists, always a small an uninfluential group, are divided as
to how this desirable state of affairs can be brought about.
Some want to achieve it gradually, through education and legislation and
an increasing influence of the Roman Catholic church. These ones,
following in the footsteps of Belloc (an ultra-nationalist, an
anti-semite & in his old age a grumpy bigot), drifted farther and
farther to the right, often becoming little different from Fascists.
Recently they have become associated with the "Third Way" (i.e neither
Socialism not Capitalism) a confused mish-mash of political positions
that probably started as a self-justification by some milder Fascists
but is now associated with Tony Blair and the British "New Labour"
Some other Distributivists thought that the people should rise up and
occupy the land, taking it from its current owners, whether the rich or
the state. This philosophy is pretty indistinguishable from the English
far-left Socialism of people like William Morris, drawing inspiration
from agrarian revolts throughout history from the Peasant's Revolt to
Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers. It isn't very different - apart from
its explicitly Christian roots - from the Syndicalism of Joe Hill and
the wobblies, or the position of some modern-day Left Anarchists such as
the ones associated with the Solidarity Federation. They often say the
same things, using different jargon. (The Distributivists looked
backward to the middle ages & mainly talked about land, agriculture and
small crafts. When they paid any attention to industry, other than to
say they didn't like it, they made vague handwavings about "guilds",
i.e. local trade-based co-operatives, owning factories. The
Syndicalists looked forward to the 20th century, and were mainly
interested in industry. When they bothered to talk about agriculture
they wanted land farmed in small plots each by an owner occupier - "3
acres and a cow" again - except that in America where everything has to
be bigger they made it "30 acres and a cow") To be honest it isn't that
different from the position of a lot of Old Labour lefties like me -
except we aren't revolutionaries either which leaves us in a bit of a
Chesterton was never a Socialist and probably never a revolutionary but
he was often a Liberal (in the English sense) and was at least on
speaking terms with Socialists and Anarchists (of whose politics he
If you haven't read "The Servile State" you should.
In fact if you haven't read Belloc you should. Not a great writer, not
always even a good one, but very, very interesting. Of course I'm
biased. In the early years of this century Belloc and Chesterton (&
many other writers such as Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, S. Fowler
Wright (you really have to be weird to remember him), E.C. Benson and
A.A. Milne (the Hundred Acre Wood is just 20 miles from where I was
born)) were almost fanatical admirers of my own home county of Sussex
in England :-) And they wrote some really OTT poetry to show how good
it all was.
Ken Brown (about as off-topic as you can get on a Tuesday).
The South Country
When I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind,
I light my lamp in the evening:
My work is left behind;
And the great hills of the South Country
Come back into my mind.
The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea;
And it's there walking in the high woods
That I could wish to be,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Walking along with me.
The men that live in North England
I saw them for a day:
Their hearts are set upon the waste fells,
Their skies are fast and grey;
From their castle-walls a man may see
The mountains far away.
The men that live in West England
They see the Severn strong,
A-rolling on rough water brown
Light aspen leaves along.
They have the secret of the Rocks,
And the oldest kind of song.
But the men that live in the South Country
Are the kindest and most wise,
They get their laughter from the loud surf,
And the faith in their happy eyes
Comes surely from our Sister the Spring
When over the sea she flies;
The violets suddenly bloom at her feet,
She blesses us with surprise.
I never get between the pines
But I smell the Sussex air;
Nor I never come on a belt of sand
But my home is there.
And along the sky the line of the Downs
So noble and so bare.
A lost thing could I never find,
Nor a broken thing mend:
And I fear I shall be all alone
When I get towards the end.
Who will there be to comfort me
Or who will be my friend?
I will gather and carefully make my friends
Of the men of the Sussex Weald;
They watch the stars from silent folds,
They stiffly plough the field.
By them and the God of the South Country
My poor soul shall be healed.
If I ever become a rich man,
Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung
And the story of Sussex told.
I will hold my house in the high wood
Within a walk of the sea,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.
Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once , towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone,
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London's Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
>From Putney,Hackney Downs, and Bow
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
`Matilda's House is Burning Down!'
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda's Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away!
It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out -
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street -
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) - but all in vain!
For every time She shouted `Fire!'
They only answered `Little Liar'!
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.