I’ve never actually finished “The Servile State”, but I was intrigued by several ideas in the early chapters, and that was how I first ran into distributism. The fact that Chesterton also embraced it was a big plus in my mind.
So, like, before Prohibition, say there were 50,000 companies that made whiskey. So the whiskey-manufacturing pie was split 50,000 ways. Nowadays, four companies own 75% of the scotch-whiskey market, according to a Forbes article that I can’t read, 'cause it doesn’t like my adblocker. Eight companies in the US account for 99% of the whiskey market, according to Wikipedia. So instead of having the pie split up 50,000 ways… the pie is split into four significant pieces, with one quarter left over for everyone else to parcel out; or it’s split into eight significant pieces, with a few crumbs left over for your little craft distilleries.
So, with distributism, you don’t have Apple or Microsoft or Ford or Chevrolet or ConAgra or Johnson & Johnson or Proctor & Gamble or PepsiCo or Tyson Chicken or MeadWestvaco. Business and economies are small and local. The chickens and pigs and eggs you eat come from a farm within 20 miles of your home. Your flour and paper are milled locally. Your lumber comes from the local sawmill, not Lowes or Home Depot. There aren’t these big multinational conglomerations— the product, the jobs, it’s all local. And the means of producing them are local, too. If it’s more than what an individual can afford, then groups of people team up to invest together, like with guilds, but it’s still a local enterprise.
I think it’s a very cool idea, but with things being as global as they are-- and regulations making it more complicated to enter into business than it was 100 years ago-- it will be hard to return to at any particular scale.