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Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Principles of Fr. McNabb, 1-4

The Principles of Father McNabb, 1-4

Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., is often considered one of the fathers of the English Distributist movement of the first half of the last century, though he did not consider himself a Distributist.  He often spoke at Distributist League meetings, but, being a priest, and not a politician or economist, he did not like labels, but instead focused on principles.

He laid out 12 particular principles I’d like to share over the next few days.  As each is worthy of reflection, I do not want to present more than four a day.  It requires a sufficient familiarity of Distributism to understand Fr. McNabb’s often very challenging points.  My hope is that they will inspire curiosity and further study.


1)    The “flesh pots of Egypt,” which must be given up, are to be left not for the milk and honey of Palestine but that “the people may go and worship God.” (Exodus 5:1)

2)    To cease to live in the town while continuing to live on the town may be serving Mammon rather than God; indeed may be serving Mammon under the guise of serving God.

3)    The area of production should be as far as possible coterminous with the area of consumption.  The utilitarians were wrong in saying “things should be produced where they can be most economically produced.”  The true principle is: things should be produced where they can most economically be consumed.

4)    Farmers should farm primarily for self-support.  They should sell as little and buy as little as possible.


Clearly, some of these principles would seem impractical in 2014.  They have to be understood in the context of a wider vision.  But they are certainly worthy of reflection.  And it is worth asking what value they can add to our often cold and impersonal economies.