Monday, August 5, 2013

Chesterton, the Distributist

I like G.K. Chesterton: in particular his fiction and much of his Christian apologetics. He was also an advocate of an economic regime called "Distributism" that he considered a Christian alternative to both Socialism and Capitalism. It has some attractive elements summarized here by David Deavel:
Last week I outlined the views of distributists, identifying four areas of thought in which they offer some wisdom: 1) objections to the divorce of economics and ethics, 2) objections to the collusion of large business and government and the resultant concentration of power, 3) advocacy for entrepreneurism and widely distributed wealth, and 4) objections to the welfare state and its effects on the citizen’s relationship to government. Sadly, distributist thinkers don’t stop at these solid insights.
Deavel goes on to elaborate the deficiencies of Distributism, and they are serious deficiencies. The headings for the areas he addresses:
  • Willful Ignorance of Economics
  • Borrowed Infallibility
  • A Secret Lust for Big Government, from which:
.... Founding distributist Hilaire Belloc did not propose that all property be taken and redistributed by the state—though he was not in principle opposed to this, which explains his and Chesterton’s defense of the French Revolution; he believed that it was essentially a seizure of property that was returned to the peasants. ....

...[T]he devotion of distributists to freedom is open to question. Belloc and Chesterton were beguiled by Mussolini and his promise of corporatism. ....

...Chesterton gradually woke up to the fact that Mussolini was merely using distributist rhetoric to mask a totalitarian state. Belloc and many of the other distributists were fooled for longer. And no surprise: to repose so much power in a central government to regulate and redistribute wealth and property is a dangerous game. ....

Hudge and Gudge, the names by which Chesterton called big government and big business, are not twins, but perhaps they are brothers. The trick is to keep big business, or any business, from using the coercive power of its big brother, big government, to win, or even survive. ....
  • Are You a Price Slave?
  • Free Will Distributism in which Deavel explains that Distributism is fine if not politically coerced:
If you agree with distributism’s goals, you should spend your money that way and encourage others to do so. If enough people make those choices, that will help support an ample, thriving sector of independent farms and businesses....

The last thing that people who oppose concentrations of power, and who seek to keep alive the vital freedoms we cherish as Americans, should favor is a government that interferes in every decision we make as workers and consumers. Experience tells us that power does not elevate fallen men; it tends to corrupt them. .... [more]