Thursday, July 23, 2009

Allan Carlson, “Servile World: How ‘The Big Business Government,’ ‘The Loathsome Thing Called Social Service,’ and Other Distrubutist Nightmares All Came True

One of the more curious aspects of last Autumn’s global financial meltdown was the blame that was actually heaped on Distributist Theory. The argument sounded like this: efforts in America to extend property ownership in homes went too far; resulting in the issuance of “subprime” loans to unqualified buyers; resulting in turn in a liquidity crisis at the banks; bringing on a credit squeeze, panic, and global depression. This explanation has proven wonderfully useful. It has allowed inept bankers, market speculators, and the advocates of economic globalism to shift responsibility away from their own misdeeds and from the inherent instability of finance capitalism, and to place the blame instead on the slumping shoulders of G.K. Chesterton and a modest number of lower-income Americans. This explanation has also spawned the argument that, looking forward, the working poor should not really aspire to home ownership; it would be better for them to rent their living space and to find their security in state programs of unemployment insurance, state pensions, and the like.

This explanation is outrageous on any number of levels. Yet it does rest on a kernel of truth: instability in the American home mortgage market did apparently trigger the financial panic. However, I would respond that this development had nothing to do with good Distributist theory regarding home ownership. The essential problem has been that the initial Distributist impulse – to gain the broadest possible private ownership by families of property in the form of homes, land, and productive capital – this long ago ceased to be the driving force in the American housing market.

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