I have read that Distributism is anti-mass production. Is this true? If so, what model does Distributism put forward for developing complex machines, medicines, and other products reliably and affordably?
This, too, like the former, is a very good question, precisely because it seems simple but belies a great deal of complexity.
Once again, some Distributists, encountering this question, might simply point out that there are models of mass production organized along Distributist principles, perhaps most notably such as the Mondragon Cooperative in the Basque Region of Spain.
But once again, I tend to feel that such an answer is too facile: at least in my mind, lingering implications of the question remain even after pointing out that Distributism can work with large-scale production.
I think there are philosophical correlations here to what I wrote about in the previous answer. Just as wasteful obsolescence has real-world consequences that market mechanisms alone don't seem fully to account for, so too most markets involving mass production have what are called "externalized costs" that seem bound up with ethical/socio-political questions, and can't be resolved simply by economic analysis.
Continued from Question 1.
Distributism believes businesses and individuals will flourish if the means of production is well spread; therefore, it believes that control of assets by the few is to be avoided. Socialism professes the opposite, believing there should be no private property, while Capitalism can lead to Oligarchy or Corporatism if left unchecked. On the other hand, Capitalism, when at its best, promotes people to innovate and out compete others either by making a new or better product or making a product better. How does Distributism promote innovation and prevent Oligarchy? At what point does a business become to big? Am I correct in guessing that American anti-trust laws are a form of Distributism?
I addressed some of this in the preceding, but this is a good question in its particulars.
To answer the ultimate question, I'd say that, yes, anti-trust laws and regulations preventing effective monopolies certainly are implicitly in line with Distributism.
On the topic of innovation and competition, though...
A questioner wrote to me with three questions following my recent podcast recording on Distributism, and as I took some time to answer them and thought them generally useful basic questions on the subject, I decided I'd post them with the answers I gave here.
Here follows the first question and its answer; questions 2 and 3 with their respective answers will be posted separately. Be not faint of heart, this is the longest answer by a good margin, but also the most fundamental question.
Years ago, after I first read The Screwtape Letters, I liked to quote often the two epigraphs Lewis included before his preface. The first, taken from the "table talk" of Martin Luther, ran thus:
The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.
The second, from St. Thomas More, is in very much the same vein.
The devil… the proud spirite… cannot endure to be mocked.
There is, of course, a certain amount of great wisdom contained in these quotations—although, for a young man just setting out on a path of growth in the spiritual life, there may have been a bit of what Freud called Verleugnung (sort of a species of denial) involved in my attraction to these adages. Indeed, the second quotation, given as it is in truncated form and contextualized by the Luther bit, might be mistaken to mean something quite different from what Saint Thomas More intended. In its original context, the Saint was speaking about the perseverance with which a virtuous man rebukes temptation: how the devil will eventually give up tempting him rather than risk being "mocked" by his continual refusal—or worse, cause the virtuous man to attain even higher merit in warding off stronger diabolical assaults.
Apart from that potential misreading, thought, there is another manner in which the wisdom of these quotations must be taken with a grain of salt, and balanced by broader perspective: because it seems there are at least some times when the devil delights in being mocked, and we have all seen evidence of this recently...