We do live in a remarkable age. The last time agrarianism and distributism were taken seriously in America was during the 1930s. The economic crisis of that decade forced people to think beyond the usual economic claims of capitalism and socialism/communism. The rural population in America actually grew (for the last time…. or so it once seemed), as refugees from the collapse of industrialism returned to the countryside. The virtues of family gardens and simple animal husbandry again grew clear. Small family businesses (now called “micro-enterprises”) sprang up within households. Books such as I’ll Take My Stand, Land of the Free, This Ugly Civilization, Who Owns America? and Flight From the City were a major force in public debates. Distributist journals such as American Review and Free America flourished. Even the New Deal clumsily bought in, promoting Subsistence Homesteads and the Family Wage (see my The ‘American Way’, chapter 3). Regional literature and art (e.g., poets Paul Engle and Jay Sigmund, novelist Ruth Suckow, and painter Grant Wood in my native Iowa) also prospered.

The greatest industrial “stimulus package” of all time–World War II– did bring this era to a close. Yet now, we see another end: the collapse and disarray of the post-World War II economic order. A political economy more in harmony with human nature again seems possible.

And so, the appearance of Front Porch Republic could not be more timely. May it grow and prosper!

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Allan Carlson is President of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Illinois and founder and International Secretary of The World Congress of Families. During the 2009/10 academic year, he is also Distinguished Visiting Professor of Political Science and History at Hillsdale College and Visiting Professor at The John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. He holds his Ph.D. in Modern European History from The Ohio University. His ten books include: Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen created Family Centered Economies...and Why They Disappeared (2007); Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage (2006); The 'American Way': Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity (2003); and The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth Century America (2000). He is a contributing editor to Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity and Series Editor for Marriage and Family Studies at Transaction Books. He is currently writing a book on how Evangelical Protestants responded to the issue of birth control between 1873-1973. Dr. Carlson lives with his wife Betsy on her family farm in Owen Township, Winnebago County, Illinois, where he specializes in potatoes. They have four children. See books written by Allan Carlson.


  1. Regional literature and art (e.g., poets Paul Engle and Jay Sigmund, novelist Ruth Suckow, and painter Grant Wood in my native Iowa) also prospered.

    And don’t forget Kansas’s own John Steuart Curry, he of the “Tragic Prelude”! He wasn’t nearly as contented a supporter of agrarian regionalism as Grant Wood, but he should count, nonetheless.

  2. Let’s not forget that distributionst thought was popularized through the press and in readable histories during the 1930s. We really could use a Hebert Agar today.

  3. Agrarianism is the best model we have of sustainability. I too say hear hear! and say to Allan Carlson, thank you for Third Ways and The American Way and your book on Agrarian History. I have enjoyed them all and look forward to more!

  4. To Steve:
    I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa; graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School. My mother still lives in Des Moines.

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