Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Distributism Does Not Mean Free Stuff

OK. That's settled. What, then, does distributism mean?

I'll tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean two acres and a cow.

And it doesn't mean software should be free.

And it doesn't mean you should work and no one pays you for an honest day's work (i.e. meaning, you wouldn't be paid), even if the work you do it write software or even just write, for example, for the web. We are so used to free web stuff, we don't even realize how that cheapens all the information.

So, what does distributism really mean then?Class, discuss.


  1. Perhaps instead of "no one should pay you for an honest day's work" might be better said "you should not be paid". For some work generates it's own fruit (literally or figuratively) as your reward.

    But yes, "free" stuff is not really that if it's done without work. If someone provides a service, they should be able to barter that service in exchange for other things or services.

    I think the idea of "free software" - as in open-source is fine as it provides tools for others to use. That is, if the providers of such tools freely give them for the betterment of others. The benefit the programmer (who chooses this route freely) would get is not as tangible as receiving money or a chicken - experience, contacts, and perhaps even future work or accolades. That is, if he wants them.

  2. Open source means that you don't have to pay for the tree for the wood but you do have to pay for the labor of the carpenter making the chair.

  3. Matt: I'm curious. What in the computer world is the equivalent of the tree and the wood?

  4. I get the vague feeling that this isn't a conversation about Chesterton. But I would say Distributivism does mean two acres and a cow in the sense that Chesterton advocated for the right of everyone to hold private property, the significance of which is that property offers a means to production. It might look like the guilds of the middle ages or the house of a plumber with his tools in current times (or two acres and a cow). Or so I recall.

  5. Seth Godin, who is distributist without realy knowing it, has pointed out that prior marketing models have been to give away 10% free and charge for 90% of your content/products, but with the new interent culture it is now more 90% free and charging customers for 10%.

    Free software often requires support, and many open-source companies make their income off of charging for support of free products.

    How do Open Office, Ubuntu, and Firefox compete with Microsoft and their multi-billion dollar advertising budget? By giving away the product for free, getting people to use it, and charging for additional features like support and custom development.

    Free, combined with the connectivity of the internet, is becoming a powerful marketing tool for distributists. That's why I give away 2 of my 4 books away free as ebooks.


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