I have been reading quite a bit about distributism lately, and I must admit I have never seen so compelling a case for an economic philosophy. Normally, such as the argument for minimum wage, it’s a tough call because both sides have their merit. It becomes a matter of circumstance, and of people. Unquestionably, given a chance to build an economic system from the ground up, and throwing out the implicit value of tradition- “well, this is how we’ve always done it” and considering the tradition on its merit alone, there is no question that distributism is a superior system. Not only does it become possible to have generalized approximate equality, but it becomes possible to do it without a centralized agency. By nature, powerful governments are not merely ineffective, but flagrantly counterproductive. And they directly cause countless problems that the government is, by nature, unable to solve. The only non-evil government is the pure democracy. I emphasize the word pure, which has never existed since ancient Greece because in groups larger than several thousand the entire system becomes oppressively inefficient. The Internet might change that. In any case, distributism makes possible a pure democratic state (i.e. stateless state) with far greater economic power than the big government trailing corporations, where before the economic tout of governments and corporations made it impossible.
The point of a big government is to use its power to create equality. In truth, power is always used to the benefit of the holder. The system has worked approximately because the people control who is the holder, and it changes frequently. Its essential issue is that money is power, and billionaires have many, many votes, so what they say goes. In a distributist society, instead of direct manhandling of companies and individuals, the point becomes managing the standing wave of socioeconomic forces to produce a “perfect storm” of equality and economic success for all. And the brilliant thing about it is that no one agent has that power. Only the will of millions of individual agents acting at odds can produce such a system. Distributism is the application of self-organizing systems to sociopolitics.
However, it is not without its flaws. Fortunately, if you’re going to have flaws, they’re the flaws you want. While stateless distributist societies would be extremely disinclined to fight wars (advantage), they would also be extraordinarily bad at fighting wars and would present a wealthy and cultured; in a word, juicy, target for an enterprising invader. So the temptation to attack them would run high, and their ability to defend themselves would run low. Say what you will about governments, they do an excellent job managing colossal militaries of hundreds of thousands of individuals, millions in a large enough war. That’s because their position is akin to the cornered grizzly bear needing to retain its fighting skills when it finds another grizzly. Observing the state as an organism that seeks survival and self-perpetuation, its fighting capability seems to take the fore. By comparison, the distributist society takes on the aspect of a plant. It is perfectly capable of peaceful economic interaction and self-generation of wealth and energy, but it’s vulnerable to being eaten. There is no centralized agency large enough to coordinate a massive war effort, and the temporary creation of one sets a dangerous precedent which could endanger the entire distributist society.
I believe I have a solution. Knowing that the protection of the distributist society is a necessary evil, the military does not necessarily need to be centralized. The essence of distributism is to make the entire system self-organizing, and military systems can be constructed to be self-organizing as well. The system will be very different from anything currently in existence. For example, a distributist society will not be able to justify the kind of mind-bending military expense that a large corporate state can due to the invariably well-developed military industrial complex such a state will be dragging along. In the distributist society there will be no $400 million cruise missiles. In spite of everything, that puts the distributist society at a disadvantage with regard to materiel. But then, the American Revolutionaries in 1776 were at the ultimate materiel disadvantage. So were the Viet Cong and North Koreans. So maybe that doesn’t mean so much. Anyway, with these systemic notes in hand, I will outline the system I cooked up:
The basic unit of the war brain of the distributist society is the war share. Essentially the civilians purchase these to provide the stateless distributist equivalent to a defense budget. It is important to note that (competing!) war companies will blatantly be trying to sell these and, in effect, turn war into a product. If you didn’t know war is a product already, but the government is selling it to you instead of Johnson & Johnson, you need some serious enlightening. War is, was, and shall remain the most profitable business in history if you’re evil enough to try it. Now, there is an important distinction between two types of war shares. The first is the defensive war share, and the second is the offensive war share. The defensive variety can be seen more like a security fee to be used to defend in the event that someone should invade or otherwise directly threaten the society in question. Not overseas like Vietnam or some such nonsense, but directly and unequivocally attacking.
The offensive share is to initiate any military action anywhere other than in the society’s home territory, though it also contains a defensive share. Its funds can be used either to defend at home or to attack a specific enemy overseas. It should be extraordinarily difficult to start a war, but it should be possible. I point to World War II and the United States’ labored decision to enter it, in spite of the fact that it was an overseas war, and that the Axis had to be stopped. It is expected that, most of the time, the offensive shares for all countries will be burning at a low ebb. However, in the event that global circumstances provoke a consensus, the distributist society goes to war.
Both shares have some important distinguishing features. Firstly, if you buy them, you have to be willing to put your life on the line to back it up. Your probability of getting drafted is based directly from the quantity of war shares you purchased. If you really support a war, then you should be prepared to go fight it. And yes, you can be drafted, even though there is no centralized agency to do the drafting. Your Dispute Resolution Organization will see to it that you keep your word on the contract you signed when you bought that share. It is likely, however, that you will be able to opt out of your draft by paying a large fee and posting another draft probability, probably higher than the first one. Money is just as helpful as manpower, the DRO may prefer you to pay ten times your war share’s value than actually go participate. This is part of the reason why distributism is necessary for the stateless society to function: if the economic disparity was too great, the rich would take advantage of the poor, and not much is different than modern times. Only the methods change. Secondly, your war share includes a contractual obligation to continue to fund the war at a certain rate for a certain time interval, such as one month. However, at any time, you may withdraw your support for the war. Though you are obligated to pay for the rest of the month after that your contract is done.
The objective of this entire thought experiment was to somehow produce a distributist society that could protect itself, while eliminating all unnecessary aggression. The moral judgment of the individuals in the society is what determines the actions of the entire society. And when that moral judgment says “war!” there should be a systemic check on that, just to make sure. In this case, the raising of funds does not lend itself to instantaneous wars of whim, but it does lend itself to instantaneous defense of the territory itself.