And what happened to the medieval Mom and Pop merchants who could not produce goods in larger quantities or deliver them to distant ports? They could not compete with the politically dominant “cloth barons”, and many found themselves extremely disadvantaged. (footnote already cited in my first response)
- distributism has diminished, lost market shares (up to whole sectors)
- big business has taken over market shares (up to whole sectors)
- this process has been going on in the West since the Crusades introduced capitalism to the West
The conclusion will be that when the process started, mom & pop shops/farms were greater and big business smaller than now.
If in 13th C England cloth trade was exceptional (among some 80 different kinds of guilds) by being big business, and in early 20th C Sweden cobbling was exceptional by being still a mom & pop shop, the conclusion would be that most shops in 13th C were mom & pop shops, as most shops now are owned by bigger businesses. G K Chesterton maintained that this could again be the case.
It seems that Dr Carol Byrne is making a real straw man of Belloc's Mediaevalism - for Chesterton's, it is obviously the case, if it is thought to correspond to "Belloc's":
The facts of history, however, are at variance with this utopian dream. To begin with, it presupposes that the whole of the medieval economy was sustained by subsistence farming and local, small-scale production of goods. According to this view, whatever commerce existed in those days was confined to the small tradesman solely preoccupied with earning a living for himself and his family. So it is simply assumed that there was no commercial activity of any magnitude to justify belief in a class of capitalist merchants in Europe prior to the Reformation.
She is conflating two categories which, though not always neatly separate, were held apart in theory and much of the practise. In Cicero, full honesty applies to autarchy, to own production for own consumption, next step is someone buying what he will consume or selling what he has produced. Buying one thing only to sell it - which is what a merchant does - would be only third level honest, and edging on dishonesty. Though Aquinas contrasts merchants to mainly civil and domestic servants, he makes a minor distinction between selling something as one bought it for a greater price (what is usually called being a merchant) and selling something at a higher price than bought, after improving it (i e being an artisan buying one's raw or proximate materials). Merchants, who sold luxuries from abroad and raw materials not found everywhere (salt, iron, wool - since sheeps don't grass on wheat fields) were obviously Capitalist. But farmers began an existence less feudal and artisans making local products had not ended it and did not end it until the industrial revolution.
14/27 August 2008,
St Cesarius of Arles (NC)