I apologize for being “whimsical” again, but it was brought to my attention last evening by a couple of thoughtful Catholic gentlemen that Distributists are an angry lot, or at least they come off that way. This impression, it seems to me, is not entirely off base if one looks, perhaps selectively, at certain “representative voices” of the contemporary Distributist movement, though certainly Distributists hold no monopoly on anger these days.
Assuming for the moment that Disitributists are angry, why might that be? Certainly the Distributist camp has among its members a number of individuals, some thoughtful and some not, who have developed an understandable frustration with seeing their views marginalized, if not outright ignored, for the past 30 years. On top of that, a noticeable contingent of those who actively criticize Distributism tend to do so in a highly questionable manner. For example, David Deavel, in his article “What’s Wrong with Distributism,” claims, inter alia, that Distributists are economic ignoramuses; secretly lust after big government and the administrative state; and lean on a magisterium of their own design to advance their views. Those are extremely strong, if not volatile, charges which, sadly, Deavel does a very poor job supporting. But in a way he doesn’t have to. He’s building off dubious associations already made by others to push over the case that Distributists need not be taken seriously.
Of course, the “anger” charge is itself a cheap way to get one over on someone. When a view, or the expression of a view, is characterized as “angry,” it immediately signals that the speaker/writer may not be acting rationally; their emotions have overtaken reason. As such, it seems to me that it is a charge or a characterization that should be used with care, at least if one is serious about confronting an issue or idea with which they happen to disagree.
For what it is worth, I have seen no more anger emanating from the Distributist camp (broadly defined) than I have from most other camps which are, more or less, concerned with the Catholic Church’s social magisterium. Granted, there are other camps where I have noticed less anger and more arrogant dismissiveness, but I am not sure I am entitled to write off such camps because of that arrogance. And really, I—and everyone else—should be very careful with airing the “arrogance” charge since it, too, raises certain flags which may lead to individuals and ideas being summarily dismissed before a proper hearing has been held. Just because certain critics of Distributism behave poorly doesn’t mean Distributists themselves are entitled to.