Archive for the ‘Distributism’ Category

The Mensch: The Character of Christ in the Book of Ruth | Radio Free Thulcandra

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Susanna Black, in this mediation on the book of Ruth, notes the same social welfare and mandated economic inefficiencies in the Old Testament Law that I’ve noticed myself. This would be one of the reasons I don’t see strict laissez-faire economics as the self-evidently “Biblical” economic system.

Ruth, the Moabitess, the foreigner, supporting herself and her mother-in-law after the death of all the men in their family by gleaning: picking up the sheaves of wheat left behind by harvesters in someone else’s field. This was put into place under God’s law as one of three levels of provision for social welfare in Israel (the other two, per my brilliant friend Kristen Filipic, are tithing, where a tenth of everybody’s income ends up in a central fund used for, among other purposes, welfare payments to those who really can’t support themselves; and jubilee, where every fifty years everyone’s debts are cancelled, along with any land sales that have alienated a family’s home farm.)

Gleaning is cool as follows: basically, God tells farmers to build in deliberate inefficiencies to their operation in order to allow others to make a living. You’re not supposed to reap to the edges of the field, and you’re not supposed to pick up the grain that you might accidentally drop in the process of harvesting, so that there’ll be plenty of leftovers for the gleaners. It’s almost like a portion of all privately owned land is actually commons, but commons that exist in the same physical space as the private property.

via The Mensch: The Character of Christ in the Book of Ruth | Radio Free Thulcandra.

Cult, Culture, and Cultivation

November 21st, 2012 2 comments

Irish Scholars

When the Irish scholars
decided to lay the
of medieval Europe,
they established:
Centers of Thought
in all the cities of Europe
as far as Constantinople,
where people
could look for thought
so they could have light.
Houses of Hospitality
where Christian charity
was exemplified.
Agricultural Centers
where they combined
(a) Cult—
that is to say Liturgy
(b) with Culture—
that is to say Literature
(c) with Cultivation—
that is to say Agriculture.

— Peter Maurin, Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution

H. Ford on land

August 22nd, 2011 No comments

The land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity. From the land comes everything that supports life, everything we use for the service of physical life. The land has not collapsed or shrunk in either extent or productivity. It is there waiting to honor all the labor we are willing to invest in it, and able to tide us across any local dislocation of economic conditions. No unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between man and a plot of land.
— Henry Ford.

Quoted on the title page of Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management

Categories: Agrarian, Decline and Fall, Distributism Tags:

Urban Chickens!

September 19th, 2007 No comments

Last night, I dragged the kids through the Tour de Fresh in Ypsilanti, which was a showcase of cool things happening locally to promote local food production.

Weird synchronicity #1: At tour signin at the Ypsilanti Farm Market, the table next to us was being operated by David’s old Cub scout leader and fellow den member. I had no idea they sold stuff at the farm market. Maybe my boys should be there with their extra tomatoes …

After leaving the market, the first stop — only a few blocks from downtown — was Peter Thomason’s backyard chickens.

Weird synchronicity #2: While I don’t remember meeting Peter before at our homeschool co-op, a quick roster check proved that yes, we’re in this together. The co-op isn’t that big (“only” 150 kids), but obviously I still haven’t met all the other parents.

Yes, chickens. In addition to an amazing display of heirloom tomatoes trellised along the fenceline and some very nice raised-bed veggie gardens, the Thomason’s have a chicken coop.

Peter explains:

When people ask me, and they frequently do, why we have chickens living in the yard of our Ypsilanti home, I usually answer, “for the eggs.”

But the truth is, the main reason we have them is that it pleases my wife. And, if my wife is happy, most of the time, I am too. What I’m referring to is the inestimable value of pleasure that philosopher-farmer Wendell Berry speaks of in “Economics and Pleasure,” an essay that should be required reading for anyone who refuses to accept the idea that a monetary bottom line is the only “real” bottom line.

For several years we tried to sell our house, move to the country and start a farm, but the times and the market were against us and we finally accepted that, at least for the time being, we were going to have to stay where we were. Not that we had a problem with being here, we just felt a need to reconnect with our agrarian roots. The thought that we were not going to be able to do that was depressing, but we did our best to let go of it and to focus on growing as much of our food as we could on our one-tenth-of-an-acre city lot.

Then one day it just got to her and she said, “I don’t ask for much. I don’t want jewelry or fancy cars, I just want to have some chickens.” My wife’s distress about this weighed on me for weeks until it finally occurred to me one day to check the city’s animal control ordinance…

Read the whole thing.

For more details on the politics of urban chickens, plus being a philosopher-carpenter, and building coffins (yes, coffins), see this “Teeter Talk” interview with Peter:

HD: Something I would sort of like to explore is that, as best I can tell, it’s not that you’re somehow obsessed with chickens per se, it’s that chickens factor into this broader context of sustainable living, and even that has a much broader context of stemming from a Christian belief system that includes stewardship of the environment as an important component of your faith.

PT: And it’s more than stewardship of the environment. It’s what I think of as building a whole culture of life. The late John Paul II was excellent at re-presenting traditional themes in new language, so he sort of coined the idea of building a civilization of love as a way of talking about building the kingdom of God, which was a more traditional Christian way of talking about it. He talked about building a culture of life, and building a civilization of love. The components of that–certainly stewardship of the environment is a component–but also economics as if people mattered. And that is something that was largely talked about in my generation, among people that I grew up with because of the work of E.F. Schumacher. Small is Beautiful was a rallying cry for a whole generation of people I grew up with, the other two books in the trilogy being Good Work, and A Guide for the Perplexed. And from his perspective on sustainable economics, that what you can do in your own yard–in a cottage industry, what you can do to not just be a unit of consumption, but a unit of production, even in your own urban neighborhood–then counters so many of the negative and depersonalizing aspects of, if you will, a money-based economy, and makes economics human again. It’s no longer just the exchange of money, it’s the exchange of goods and services between people who’ve learned to trust each other and give people things of value. So there is a bigger discussion that, in my mind, that all of this is part of. But what it comes down to practical things that one can do–keeping chickens, or using worms under your sink to help compost organic material–it sort of brings it home. Chickens are in one sense emblematic of being somewhat independent, but they’re also pragmatic. They’re also a very real way in which you can make your own home economy sustainable. Not only are they pets, but they give back to you, you know? Your dog might be a pet, which you enjoy, but your dog may also guard your house. You may enjoy your cats, but your cats might take care of the mice that are a problem. Well, chickens also give you back food. And they eat compost, and they eat kitchen scraps, so they’re more than just symbols. They are …

HD: … good examples.

PT: They’re good examples. They’re good citizens [laugh]. They give enjoyment and they give food back. So they really fit nicely into the idea of the home economy being a producing economy, not just a consuming economy. And to me, all of that is a big part of building a civilization of love, and replacing the impersonal exchange of goods and services for money. I mean, what’s money? It’s just a dead thing, it represents something. It’s replacing it with real exchange of things that are of value and meaningful to people, because they’ve invested their time, their labor, and their love in them. So a money-less economy is not just something that communists or Marxists have a right to talk about, but people who have a Christian world-view, and who believe that it is possible to build a civilization of love.

Also worth a full read.

Anyone who can quote both Wendell Berry and John Paul II like that is all right in my book.

P.S.: David sampled one of their Amish Paste tomatoes, and is now praising heirlooms as tasting better. And Rachel was inspired to plead “Dad, can we have chickens?” in the same tones she usually reserves for “Dad, can I have a horse?”

Categories: Agrarian, Distributism, Michigan Tags:

Craftworkers carve growing niche in state's economy

February 8th, 2007 No comments

Some good news for Michigan:

Craftworkers carve growing niche in state’s economy

Dave Kober carves extraordinary fish decoys. Edmund Whitepigeon passes on his basket-making technique to his daughter-in-law. And Edna Harbison sells her hand-sewn quilts at her Ontonagon store.

What do these people have in common? They are part of the rich heritage of an under-the-radar group of Michiganians: craftworkers.

From the state’s 35 weaving guilds to an East Lansing-based store that is the nation’s leading seller of a high-end Swedish sewing machine, craft production is big business, according to a study released today by Michigan State University Museum and the state Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Study authors think there could be tens of thousands of crafters in Michigan.

A Very Old Distributist Tract

October 21st, 2005 No comments

Dale mentioned the other day (I am unsure how much in jest) that it was “time to start collecting those distributist books.

There’s one I’m sure he already has — the Bible. It was my attempt, some years ago, to read through all of the Bible that got me started down the path of distributist thinking.

This version of Psalm 37 is the translation from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and was this morning’s appointed reading. How could it not be dear to any agrarian/distributist’s heart?


Part I Noli aemulari

  1. Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
    do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
  2. For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
    and like the green grass fade away.
  3. Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *
    dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
  4. Take delight in the LORD, *
    and he shall give you your heart’s desire.
  5. Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him, *
    and he will bring it to pass.
  6. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
    and your just dealing as the noonday.
  7. Be still before the LORD *
    and wait patiently for him.
  8. Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
    the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
  9. Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
    do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
  10. For evildoers shall be cut off, *
    but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
  11. In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
    you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
  12. But the lowly shall possess the land; *
    they will delight in abundance of peace.
  13. The wicked plot against the righteous *
    and gnash at them with their teeth.
  14. The Lord laughs at the wicked, *
    because he sees that their day will come.
  15. The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
    to strike down the poor and needy, *
    to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
  16. Their sword shall go through their own heart, *
    and their bow shall be broken.
  17. The little that the righteous has *
    is better than great riches of the wicked.
  18. For the power of the wicked shall be broken, *
    but the LORD upholds the righteous.
Categories: Agrarian, Distributism Tags: