I have never written much about Distributism because, to quote Gertrude Stein, there is no there, there. Chesterton and Belloc I think used Distributism primarily as a springboard to attack the capitalism they both loathed. The details were kept vague because it was obvious that, unless humanity were suddenly to become exempt from sin, the implementation of such a system, if it could be implemented at all, would require a very powerful state indeed, something that Chesterton and Belloc both loathed just as much as they loathed capitalism. Thus Distributism was something to be trotted out in their writings periodically, but neither Chesterton or Belloc made any attempts to seriously implement it in the real world, and of course one would not expect a pair of writers to do so. That would be done, if at all, by those inspired by the concept. However, although the concept evokes a lot of sturm und drang on Catholic blogs, attempts to implement it in reality have been precious few and far between. It is therefore only appropriate that a science fiction novelist, John C. Wright, has examined a concept that I think will always remain firmly ensconced in the fictional realm:
A reader asked me my opinion of Distributionism, which is GK Chesterton’s tentative venture into economic philosophy.
For better or worse, my take on Distributism is uniformly and unabashedly negative. You see, I had studied economics for many a year before I stumbled across the writings of Mr Chesterton, and I found him wise and witty and much to be admired in all other areas but this one. Once he starts writing about rich folk, he speaks frothing nonsense, and there is a touch of hatred, of true malice, in his tone I do not detect anywhere else.
Chesterton holds that the concentration of wealth into a few hands was bad for all concerned, and looked favorably on the idea of each man owning his own means of production, and their incomes being more equal.
By what means this was to be accomplished is left vague in his writings. Whether this was to be by a medieval guild system, or some form of government-run syndicate, or an all-volunteer affair, is never mentioned one way or the other. He states clearly that he opposes the Enclosure Laws, by which common greens, formerly owned and used communally, were made private property; but he does not state clearly how, or even if, he would reverse this.
His position differs from Socialism mainly by being nondoctrinaire by being unclear. Continue Reading