I’ve been reading a bit about Distributism, a ‘third-way’ of thinking about economics. It is different from Socialism or Capitalism in that it discourages large accumulations of property (not capital), but encourages private property in as many hands as possible. G.K. Chesterton summarized it as “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”
This strikes a chord with me, especially in the tech space. Bloggers, Podcasters, Startups, etc… are good example of distributed property owners. Certainly they have investors in many cases, but not always. And they own their own means of production. I find the idea of encouraging wide property acquisition, but discouraging oligopoly, quite fascinating.
If you take away the prospect of owning your own property, then you undermine many motivations for industry. However, if you take away the prospect of owning everyone else’s property, or owning large disproportionate amounts of property, you do little to discourage personal industry.
Let’s say I want to be rich. I do not want to be megalomaniacal rich necessarily. If I think I can be rich, but not ridiculously rich, I will continue to work hard.
But what happens if I become rich? Will I still be motivated to industry? Human nature testifies against this. Most who have the motivation to become rich maintain the motivation to keep it. And most who become rich agree that the money no longer matters after a point. It becomes a game they can win. That’s what motivates them. Money is just a convenient scorekeeper.
There are other ways to keep this score than money. And the money number once irrelevant can be lower and still motivate.
This is not a defense of Dsitributism, nor do I think the philosophy is without flaws. But I think we could benefit quite a bit from an injection of this perspective into our current debates, and our ways of doing business.