Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Michael Moore and Distributism

So, I was watching Wolf Blitzer the other day. He was interviewing Michael Moore, and it was one of YouTube's top video's of the day. So I said, "Hey, that looks interesting." So I start watching.

You know what? Moore was sounding an awful lot like a Distributist. He was also identifying himself as a 'Christian'. He was saying things like, "I think the workplace should be more democratic" - that is right out of Chesterton or Belloc.

For those of you who don't know what Distributism is, look here.

So, chances are that Moore is just co-opting the Christian moniker and cherry picking his favorite snippets of Christ's teaching. But, hey, isn't it interesting? There are lots of dopes who claim to be Christians, such as Bill Clinton who once claimed in front of a Southern Christian audience that Jesus was his personal Lord and Savior (and maybe He was, I'm just sayin' that Clinton's a dope). But the interesting thing about Moore is that he's not just appropriating Christianity, but Distributism.

This puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Michael Moore.

I have another acquaintance who happens to be a Marxist economist teaching at a local university. Can you believe it, in this day and age, a Marxist teaching at a respected university? I live in Massachusetts, so you can imagine. But anyways, he claims to be a Christian Marxist. I would normally say, "Sorry, buddy, you can't be both". And I do believe that you can't. But I give him a few minutes to explain, and what he's saying sounds like Distributism. I think, kind of a little bit, that he's just confused about terms, so he appropriates 'Marxist' to explain what he's thinking. I don't know.

I've also, of late, fallen in with the 'Local First' movement, which advocates the patronage of small businesses to promote a healthy local economy. You can see some of their online material here. These folks seem very Distributist in their thinking, but with distinct differences.

I think one of the major points of departure between Mr. Moore, the Marxist Economist, the 'Local First' people, and true Distributists is the emphasis on the family.

Here's a story: My wife's father's family grew up in a part of my city that is dominated by a local university - the same one that my Marxist friend teaches at, by coincidence. So anyways, this local university started buying up property during the seventies and eighties and became a de-facto landlord for the area. I suppose they wanted to ensure that there was adequate housing for students. However, as the population moved from being resident owners to renters, the neighborhood went into a steep decline. By removing local owners, the school had done considerable damage to the neighborhood.

This little fable demonstrates the value of local ownership. But it also demonstrates that families are integral to stability and sustainability. There is nothing that gives one concern for a community like having kids who live there.

I think that Moore, et al miss this point, almost on purpose. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It's obvious. But to be in favor of traditional family is to betray a whole bevy of liberal wish list items. The idea that the family is sustainable violates all kind of liberal orthodoxies that this crowd can't touch.

So if you want real Distributism, you're gonna have to settle for Belloc, Chesterton, and other Christian writers who can swallow both halves of the Distributist concept. Sure, we shouldn't trust big corporations to be concerned about us. But we also can't trust those who work to sever every line of interpersonal responsibility in a search for self-centered fulfillment. We need those who would accept the burdens of relationship, and who wish to see the family thrive.

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