Wayne Sturgeon Interviews Wesley Whitman on Distributarianism

1) Please could you introduce yourself?
I am just an armchair philosopher, a person aspiring to be a writer, and an anarchist that is trying to get off-grid as much as possible. And my only real goal in life is to be a good Christian someday, which I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.
2) What is Distributarianism? Is it a synthesis of Chestertonian distributism with the basic tenants of Libertarianism?
That is precisely what it is—libertarian distributism. I borrow the term “Distributarian” from Joe Hargrave, a political theorist who was given this label by his opponents. The Distributarian holds that there is one main tenet of libertarianism, the “non-aggression principle,” or the belief that no one has the right to initiate force against another person. (You can, of course, use force in self-defense, because that is not the initiation of force, as the attacker is the aggressor.) Moreover, the Distributarian holds that there is one main tenet of distributism, the belief that the ownership of the means of production should be widely distributed throughout society. The Distributarian holds to both of these principles and is therefore both a libertarian and a distributist. As far as I am concerned, anarchism is the logical consequence of libertarianism: libertarianism and anarchism are identical. Therefore, I hold that the anarcho-distributism of Fr. Matthew Raphael Johnson is a form of Distributarianism.
3) What do you think of Henry George and the concept of Geolibertarianism?
To be honest, I have never read anything by Henry George. And from what I understand, I have mixed feelings about Georgism in general. I think that a reform in that direction would be better than the current world system, but it would have its drawbacks too. Firstly, there is a false presupposition at the basis of geo-libertarianism (at least, insofar as I understand it, but I could be wrong): it presupposes that land should somehow be collectively owned by the community. From this premise it is  concluded that a land rent should be paid to the community. I disagree with this. Firstly, I do not believe that “society” or the “community” is a tangible thing. The “community” is an abstraction. The only real subjects with which we are dealing are individual persons. The whole Rousseauian concept of the “general will” is bogus. There is no “general will,” nor is there a concrete “common good.” There are only individual wills, what this person or that person desires. Generally speaking, there is no consensus on anything. Everyone disagrees about almost everything. When you talk about “rights,” you can only talk about the rights of individual persons. This goes for property rights too. Secondly, I adhere to a Lockean theory of property rights: I believe that property rights should be intrinsically bound up with proper use. If there is an empty field that is not in use (i.e. that has not been cultivated), then that piece of land should be regarded as free. It should be “up for grabs.” Whoever comes along and decides to use the land, i.e. whoever puts in the work to cultivate the land or build on it, should automatically attain the right to the land. Land should not be bought or sold permanently. If you build on a piece of land, you can sell the house, but you have no natural right to sell a piece of land that you have contributed nothing to. Finally, the idea of land rent only works in a monetized economy. I support the abolition of money and the revival of barter economies. I think that people should be allowed to live off the land without interacting with others. I’m not saying that this is the ideal way to live, but I do think that it should be a possibility. As long as it is not a possibility, then all men will forever remain slaves to society. If I build a house and plant crops on my little acre of land, then I am contributing something already. The way I see it, I don’t owe society anything. For example, I bought my house with my own money, I am fixing it up by myself, and I intend to grow food and raise some livestock. I did this all by myself, so why should I owe society a “land rent”? The land would not be used at all if not for me and my efforts. If anything, society should pay me because I have made the property more beautiful and more useful. After all, it was just an abandoned and rundown old lot before I came along.
4) Could you explain your understanding of what “Christian Anarchism”is?
Christian anarchism is quite simple. It is the belief in absolute, universal moral principles. It is the belief that “theft” and “murder” are always what they are. It is a grievous sin for me to steal your money, and it is just as much of a sin for a government official to steal your money, even if they do call it a “tax.” It is evil for an individual to kidnap a person and force him into slavery, and it is just as evil for the government to do so, even if they do call it “conscription.” Christian anarchism is the rejection of all forms of “selective morality.” It is the belief that there is a God and that this God has created universal principles of morality, and these universal principles apply to the state just as much as to the citizen. And since there is no conceivable act of government that does not violate God’s natural law, there is no justifiable argument for the state. The state is evil by definition; its function is to tax, to coerce, to kill, etc. Statism of any sort, even minarchism, is not compatible with Christianity.
4) As an Orthodox Christian do you think the Orthodox conception of autocelphalous church organisation with its decentralised ethos is a viable template for anarchist social theory?
Firstly, I am not an Orthodox Christian, as I have not yet been baptized. I fully believe in Orthodoxy and I know a lot about it. I am still on my journey into the Church, and hopefully I will get baptized soon.
I think that Orthodox ecclesiology can be a good place to start as an anarchist theorist. The concept of “sobornosti” can be used in this regard if you wanted to found an anarchistic commune. I’m honestly not prepared to weigh in on this question though. I’m not really sure. I would, however, point people towards Nikolai Berdyaev’s writings, as he is an Orthodox anarchist.
5) What central significance do you  attach to the “Filiogue”(the papal addition to the historic catholic christian creed that the Spirit proceeds from the Father…”And the Son” ) as regards the later formation and development of western society after the Great Schism of 1053 as some Orthodox theologians have seen in the philosophical foundations of the Filioque a tendency to forms of either polictical or clerical centralisation? (ie almost a secularised  form of modualism.)
The filioque is not actually the core issue: it is a side issue, a consequence of the real issue. The real issue is St. Augustine’s Neo-Platonic approach to “theology.” Augustine followed Plotinus in holding that God must be regarded as “absolutely simple.” By this concept of “absolute simplicity,” was meant that there is absolutely no diversity in God. God is essentially a monad. If you want to find an “absolutely simple” object, you just have to break matter down to the subatomic level. Then you get the quark, which is absolutely simple: it cannot be broken down any further. This is the way that Augustine viewed God. God is “absolutely simple,” like a quark in an atom. He is not composed of parts. He cannot be broken into pieces. There is nothing within him that can be distinguished from his essence. Therefore, Augustine held that everything in God is identical to His essence: His essence is identical to His will, His will is identical to His acts, His acts are identical to His essence, etc. Augustine used this view in his arguments with Eunomius, a heretical Arian Neo-Platonist who also adhered to the doctrine of “absolute simplicity”. Eunomius held that the Son proceeds from the energies of God, and, therefore,  that the Son is not God because he does not proceed from God’s essence. Augustine, however, countered Eunomius’ argument by demonstrating that the Neo-Platonic notion of “absolute simplicity” means that God’s essence is identical to His energies; therefore, Augustine argued, if the Son proceeds from the Father’s energies, it follows that he proceeds from the essence (because the essence is identical to the energies) and therefore the Son is essentially God.
The problem is that this notion of “absolute simplicity” was never true to begin with. Augustine’s argument is brilliant; it absolutely confutes Eunomius. If Augustine were to stop there, it would be fine. But Augustine did not just use this as an argument against Eunomian Arianism; he also made this notion of “absolute simplicity” the basis of his entire understanding of the Trinity. But this concept of “absolute simplicity” is not even biblical. It is borrowed entirely from heathen philosophy. If you try to consistently hold to this position, you run into all kinds of problems. For example, if God is “absolutely simple” in the Augustinian sense, then it follows that the persons are identical to the essence, i.e. that the Father and the Son are not just consubstantial (of one essence) but identical (essentially the same). If that is the case, then the Father and the Son are one and the same. There is no Trinity. But this is clearly unbiblical because the Bible clearly speaks of the Father and the Son as two separate entities. Moreover, Augustine’s doctrine holds that every attribute of God is identical to His essence. Hence, His will is identical to His foreknowledge. If that is the case, then God desires for me to sin because he foreknows my sins. There’s a whole host of theological and philosophical errors that follow from this. The filioque is just one of the logical consequences of “absolute simplicity”. Augustine holds that the Father and the Son are identical in essence, and he holds that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the essence of the Father; yet, since Augustine holds that the Son is the essence of the Father, he holds that the Spirit cannot proceed from the Father without proceeding “also from the Son” (filioque is Latin for “and [from] the Son”). So, you see, the filioque is the consequence of this concept of “absolute simplicity.” There is actually a deeper theological disagreement here. The West holds that God is “absolutely simple” (i.e. that His essence is identical to his energies, persons, attributes), whereas the East asserts that God’s energies are distinct from His essence. The errors of Augustinianism were clearly exposed and refuted in the writings of Sts. Photios and Gregory Palamas (particularly in Photios’ “The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit” and Palamas’ “The Triads”).
The entire issue can be looked at in the context of the “problem of the one and the many,” as they say in philosophy. How do we bring the general (the one) and the particular (the many) into harmony? Does the general category of humanity precede the individual humans? What comes first, the category of trees or the particular trees? Do we see the trees and then generalize to the category or do we start with the category and so classify the individual trees as trees according to the prior concept of genus? This is called the problem of the one and the many. What is the relation of the one particular instance of something to the general category of instances under which it is classified? Shall we say that “the one” is ultimate, as Thales, Parmenides, and Zeno taught? Or shall we say that “the many” is ultimate, as Heraclitus and Democritus taught? Well, Augustine takes the side of Plato and Plotinus, exalting the one over the many. This is wrong. God is not an absolutely simple monad; rather, He is a Trinity. In the immortal words of Cornelius van Til, “In the Ontological Trinity, the one and the many are equally ultimate.” St. Maximus the Confessor made the same point when he said that God is “simultaneously a monad and a triad.” In other words, Trinitarian theology is a third way, breaking completely away from Greek philosophy. The diversity in God is just as basic as the simplicity. The persons of God are just as basic to His being as is the essence. In fact, you can’t even conceive of the essence without the persons, because the essence is merely an abstraction, a generalization from the persons.
The East and West have a fundamental epistemological and philosophical disagreement. They approach things differently, and the West is wrong. And centralization is the result of the Western approach. The West sees everything in terms of “the one,” so it wants to concentrate everything into the hands of a single centralized apparatus. The West does this in ecclesiology and in politics. The East sees things differently; they see the many different particulars as being “one” and complete in and of themselves, e.g. the local Church is the catholic (universal) Church, etc. Of course, I cannot really explain these things sufficiently in a short “Q&A” session, but this might point people in the right direction.
6) Followering on from this would it be fair to surgest that papalism layed the seeds for protestantism but not that these are opposites but rather “opposames” ie, the errors of one lead to the errors of the other-Rome added to apostolic tradition whereas the reformers took away from ancient orthodox truth and practice throwing out the baby with the bath water as it were?
Yes, that is correct. The Protestant Reformers were all Augustinians. Roman Catholics and Protestants adhere to the exact same heresy—Augustinianism. The Protestants and Papists agree on the essentials. They agree when it comes to “divine simplicity” and the filioque. In fact, John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas are very much alike. They just took Augustinian ideas off in different directions. Khomiakov famously remarked that “all Protestants are crypto-Papists,” and St. Justin Popovich said that “the Papists were the first Protestants.” As far as the Orthodox are concerned, Protestantism and Papism are identical heresies.
7) Do you feel then that protestantism inturn layed the seeds for later developments within western culture regarding secularism, atheism and capitalism etc?
Certainly. However, I would say Augustinianism and the humanism upon which it is based are the problem. Protestantism, like the filioque, is just a consequence.
8) What do you think of the Orthodox conception of “Symphony” as regards church and State relations?
It is not really an Orthodox teaching; it is just a teaching that some Orthodox people adhere to. I will say, as I have said before, that I do not believe in the legitimacy of the state. The state is, in my opinion, anti-Christ in orientation. As such, the state is always in enmity with the Church. Moreover, the entire concept of “symphony” presupposes the existence of a Christian state. Since there is no Christian state in the world today, it’s really just a moot point. All existing states are aggressively anti-Christian. I would say that it is really “antagony” rather than “symphony:” the state is always in opposition to the Church.
9)What do you think of “national anarchism”?
I feel kind of uneasy about answering this question. It really depends on what you mean by “national anarchism.” I do support both anarchism and nationalism (as long as you make a distinction between “nation” and “state”). However, I am opposed to any form of racism. I know that some racist groups do consider themselves to be “national anarchists,” so I am weary of that term. However, I am aware that not all national anarchists are like that.
I will also point out that I believe in Christianity. One of the hallmarks of Christianity has always been the doctrine of “justification by faith [alone].” The proto-Talmudic Jews (a.k.a. “Pharisees”) believed that the Jews were a superior race. They equated “righteousness” with “Jewishness.” In their view, to be “made righteous” (i.e. to be “justified” or “made just”) is to be made into a Jew. Jesus and St. Paul rejected the views of the Pharisees. Man is justified on the basis of faith alone, not on the basis of race or ethnicity. The Pauline argument of “justification by faith” was never intended to prove that works are unimportant: it was put forth to show the means by which one could attain citizenship within God’s holy nation. Paul’s point was that you don’t have to be Jewish to be in a covenantal relationship with God. The Church is the spiritual Israel and baptism is the spiritual circumcision. To be justified, in the Pauline sense, is to be united to Christ (deified) by way of incorporation into the Church, the Body of Christ. Christianity is the negation of racism. Racism of any sort must be rejected. Moreover, the concept of “race” is an abstraction, just like the idea of a “society”. We only ever encounter individual persons, not racial groups as such. Racism is a form of collectivism, and I am an anti-collectivist. Furthermore, Christianity speaks in terms of the “human race,” because everyone is descended from Adam. We are all one. We fell together through the original sin and we can be redeemed together in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile; for all are one in Christ Jesus.” I would also like to point out that “white nationalism” and “black nationalism,” apart from being anti-Christian and evil, are also totally absurd. You can be a “Russian nationalist” or a “German nationalist,” but what in the world does “white nationalism” even mean? As Fr. Matthew Raphael Johnson put it, racial categories are meaningless. There is no common bond that binds all people of a particular race together. Racial nationalism is bogus. A black Ethiopian Orthodox priest has absolutely nothing in common with a black Pentecostal from Chicago. There is no common nationality, no common ethnicity, and no common culture. However, a white Russian Orthodox woman would have much in common with a black Ethiopian Orthodox man. National bonds are better established upon religious, cultural, and philosophical traditions.
10) What do you think about monetary reform and alternative theorys of radical economics like “Social Credit” particularly as regards the historical church tradition as it stands in relation to Usury etc?
I am in favor of Social Credit. I also support the idea of “competing currencies” within an economy. F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Ron Paul were great theorists in this regard. They held that there should be multiple “mediums of exchange” in the economy, so that this type of money exists alongside that type of money. If the governments’ money had to compete with “free market currencies,” then things would be much different. The “Liberty Dollar” from NORFED was a competing currency that would have put the Federal Reserve and the U.S. dollar out of business, if only the fascist American government had not persecuted the great American libertarians that were running the operation. I am totally opposed to “fractional-reserve banking” and the usury based lending system. The banks create money out of thin air when they make a loan, so the source of the so-called “loanable funds” is actually an inflation tax. If the banking industry is going to create money through an inflation tax, they shouldn’t be allowed to charge you interest on it; they’ve already taxed you for it! The bankers are getting rich off of usury. This is totally evil. They counterfeit the money into existence, loan it out to the masses, and charge people interest. Why should they be able to make a profit off of this Ponzi scheme? It’s bogus! When it comes to monetary issues, Rothbard was right and I’m an Austro-Libertarian. I’m actually anti-capitalist (i.e. anti-industrialist), and I disagree with Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard on plenty of things, but money is the one area where the Austrian School is almost always right. Everyone should read Carl Menger’s “On the Origin of Money” and Murray Rothbard’s “The Case Against the Fed.”
11) Could you explain why you feel Agarianism is so integral to your vision of distributarianism?
There are several reasons why I support agrarianism. Firstly, because it is biblical. God created man so that he could “till and keep” the Garden of Eden. Mankind was created for agricultural purposes. Secondly, food is the one commodity that everyone needs. We don’t need money or gold. We need food. And agriculture is all about the production of food. Suppose that we were to run out of oil tomorrow. Mass transportation would be over. We could no longer afford to ship food all around the world. The problem is that no one knows how to produce food locally anymore. No one knows how to slaughter a pig, or even what to feed cattle. (And, by the way, we should not be feeding corn to cows and chickens. That is an evil thing to do!) If we lost the ability to transport food (even just for a short time), over half of the world’s population would starve to death and die. People don’t know how to live off the land anymore; they don’t know what plants can be eaten. Agrarianism is just about being self-sufficient and not having to rely on society, the market system, and mass transportation. If the economy were to totally shut down today, the majority of people would be doomed. The agrarians would be the only ones that could support themselves and survive. As far as agrarianism’s link to distributarianism goes, they are linked together the same way that agrarianism is linked to any form of distributism. Land is the biggest means of production. Land is necessary for the production of the essentials (i.e. food), and distributists hold that the means of production should be widely distributed throughout society. Everyone should have access to the land. But what is the point of widely distributed ownership of land if the land is not being used for productive purposes? The reason that we want the means of production to be widely distributed is because we want everyone to produce for themselves. If you are not using the means of production for production, then what is the purpose?
12) What are you current projects and where can one find out more please?
As for me, I just recently bought a home and am planning on moving towards a more agrarian and off-grid lifestyle. Hopefully I will be able to get into a Permaculture Design Course in the spring. I intend to grow a very large garden and raise chickens, rabbits, and maybe even a hog or two. I have started a blog where I will document my progress and experiments: novamonticello.blogspot.com. I have literally just gotten started with this. We are going to be starting work at my new house this weekend. I’ve named the piece of land “Nova Monticello,” after Thomas Jefferson’s home because Jefferson was the quintessential distributarian (although he never used the term himself). I intend to keep this “Nova Monticello” blog updated with whatever I’m up to. I will post regularly about projects that I’m doing around the house, any animals I get, anything that I learn of a practical nature, etc. This is going to be my main project for a while. Also, people can check out the articles on my website, distributarian.com, where I write about economics, politics, political philosophy, Christian philosophy, epistemology, and such.
As for the time being, I don’t plan on getting involved with any political movements. First I want to show people that practical anarchism and producing your own food is possible. Personally, I think it is more important to live in accordance with my beliefs than to convince others that my beliefs are right. Who am I to go out telling people that they need to change and start doing things differently, unless I have already started living according to the principles that I advocate? I’m still young; I have plenty of time to get involved with political activism in the future. But for the moment, the “Nova Monticello Project” is my political movement.