Coding with Jesse


April 11st, 2006

I was reading Tara Hunt's blog, in which she talks about how communism relates to cluetrain, the "new" web, and all the great stuff we're seeing happen on the Internet. I think she was absolutely right to suggest the distributed nature of the Internet will let the common people take power away from the ruling class.

She's had to fight off a lot of criticism though, since communism has such a negative connotation, especially in America. But communism, ie. The Communist Manifesto, has nothing to do with killing people or Hilter or whatever. It's just about bringing power to the people. Well, it seems like it's an argument that's impossible to win so she's had to focus closely on marketing, with Pinko Marketing.

I think there's a lot of value in this comparison though, outside of marketing. So, I'd like to suggest another -ism that doesn't have the same negative connotation, but nicely captures the same spirit of Power to the People: Distributism.

The idea behind Distributism is (from Wikipedia): "the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the populace, rather than being centralized under the control of a few state bureaucrats (some forms of socialism) or a minority of resource-commanding individuals (capitalism)".

This relates to a ton of things happening these days. Think of "the means of production" in terms of music recording technology, self-publishing, video technology, etc. and the "minority of resource-commanding individuals" as the music, book, magazine and movie industries.

Like I was talking about recently, the Internet is bringing power to the average person in many ways, including in business. More and more people are becoming entrepreneurs. Some people even quit their job, go independant, then turn their old job into their first client, fulfilling the same role they did before. Yes, someone can switch from being employed by a company to being independant and still working for the company, and hardly anything changes. Why doesn't everybody do this?

Well that's kind of the concept of Distributism (or what I gather from it anyway). Ideally, everybody would have their own business. People would get together to form partnerships or co-operatives to share some resources and achieve common goals. People who have their own business, entrepreneurs, artists, or whatever independant people are just that: independant. This is really Power to the People.

This is the future of the web. Individuals doing whatever they want, making a living from it, starting their own microbrands and picobusinesses. People coming together from across the world to work together. No longer does one need a lot of money to create a successful business. No longer does one even need to leave the house to do something big in the world.

This isn't just the future of the web. It's the future of the world.

Thoughts? Agreements? Arguments?


1 . The Ultimate Groupie on April 12nd, 2006

The Ultimate Groupie

I am a Star Trek fan, and I have always l liked Roddenberry's version of the future society, where people do not work for money but a sense of self-fullfillment.

An obstacle to realizing a similar world is that some people or businesses like the profits they make and do not believe in sharing. They are also less than co-operative. They are multinational businesses with roots that spread around the world. They are the ones who end up backing politicians who make decision for our future.

This reminds me of what I just finished writing in one of my blogs. I really believe we are all born with the "Selfish Gene" (have you read the book?), and we spend a lifetime trying to become a more 'reasonable human' than just a product of a bunch of alleles and chromosomes. I think most people do not overcome their selfish gene in spite of their best efforts, and some don't even try.

In order for distributism to work, we need to first work on the people who don't even try.

2 . Enric on April 12nd, 2006


What you are referring to as "distributism" is a natural development of technology. Technology increases in capability at an exponential rate as it's cost to entry lowers.

On the other hand, Marxism is opposed to technology. The Communist Manifesto frames technology as exploitation, "...It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless ,direct, brutal exploitation." Further in, "...What is more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labor increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of working hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of machinery, etc." Also, "The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalized, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labor, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level." And, "The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth."

As early examples of communism, the Communist Manifesto in future editions provides in footnotes, "...August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) discovered common ownership of land in Russia, Georg Ludwig von Maurer proved it to be the social foundation from which all Teutonic races started in history, and, by and by, village communities were found to be, or to have been, the primitive form of society everywhere in Ireland...With the dissolution of the primeval communities, society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes."

Historically Marxism is wrong on it's basic premise that the increase of technology leads to lower wages, lack of power and a growing lower class of proletariats. In fact the opposite has happened with technology achieving more independence, wealth, individuality and capability for people. The middle class has enlarged.

On Hitler, Nazism is called National Socialism. It is a combination of the ideas of Fascism and Socialism which was chartered in the constitution of nazi Germany. It is accurate that Hitler was a socialist among other philosophies.

Lastly, one should not avoid the evidence of the social disasters of implementing Marxism. The millions of Ukrainian landowner, i.e. Capitalists, killed by Stalin because they didn't want to join communes. The millions of Cambodians killed because they had qualities of intellect, capitalism and modernism counter to the Khmer Rouge ideal of primitive communism. The suppression and stagnation of technological innovation through the many implementations of Marxism in Eastern Europe, in Maoist China before opening up, Cuba, etc.

3 . Roy F. Moore on April 14th, 2006

Roy F. Moore

Hello, this is Roy F. Moore, one of four contributors to "The Distributist Review" weblog and moderator of the Distributism Yahoo Group.

Distributism, as you have described it, does believe in small businesses and co-operatives, but also believes in small government, a clean environment, fair trade, big families, and a pro-Ten Commandments moral structure to society.

It's co-founders - Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton - believed this, along with a return to a more Christ-like life and society, would make things more humane. BTW, this year - 2006 - is the 80th anniversary of the publishing of "The Outline of Sanity" by Chesterton. This book is one of the five foundational works of Distributist Thought.

I invite you and your readers to visit our weblog, as well as sign onto our Yahoo Group and find out more about this alternative to BOTH socialism and capitalism.

May you and yours have a Blessed Easter.

Comments are closed, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts.