I read Thomas Woods’ short Beyond Distributism earlier this year. It’s a pretty good book, and well worth reading if one is unclear on the differences between libertarian economics and distributism.
He flays Belloc pretty harshly. Though I’m a Belloc fan, I never fully understood his economic arguments (or GKC’s, for that matter). This passage in particular caught my attention:
Belloc points out [that] the family can nevertheless live on its own, even if buyers refuse to purchase its surplus goods. They can live on what they themselves produce. At heart, then, Belloc’s promise of security amounts to the distributist family’s ability in the last resort to retreat from the division of labor and live in a condition of self-sufficiency.
It’s been years since I’ve read Belloc’s economic ideas, but the passage strikes me as pretty accurate: Basically, what this world needs is a bunch of families with forty acres and a mule. It’s not quite that simplistic, of course, but not terribly far off the mark.
The prospect reminded me of Thaddeus Russell’s description of 1960s hippies who lived out their ideals in communities of self-sufficiency in the Renegade History.
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Though professing to be radicals, many hippie women proudly recalled their lives as similar to the experiences of the paragon of American conservative virtue: the pioneer woman. Ayala Talpai, who lived off the land with her husband and five children, remembered that when it was “time for supper, I’d pick up a basket and go out to the garden, that’s how it started. . . . I just milked twice a day. So I was making cheese and butter and cottage cheese and yogurt and buttermilk and whipped cream and ice cream and everything. . . . But that was a major dent in my time, you know. I was cooking on a wood stove. So I was doing everything on this wood stove, and I was knitting my husband’s socks out of yarn that I’d spun and dyed myself, and he’d go off to work with his sandwiches of homemade bread and mayonnaise and homegrown lettuce and homemade cheese and a hand-knitted hat on his head and homemade shirts, and oh my God.” Nonie Gienger also lived “naturally” with her husband and children and gathered “seaweed and nettles, plantain and dandelion, berries and wild apples, too. . . . But we were even grinding our own flour to make bread. I was a pioneer housewife, and we were living off very little money. But it felt good because I knew where everything came from.”