Distributism

I’ve been reading, of late, about an economic model known as distributism. It was popular among Catholics 90 years ago, and is unlikely to woo many enthusiasts today. I’m going to assume my readers aren’t all familiar with the concept, and provide a definition (loath as I am to but into the current fad for Wikipedia definitions, it *is* convenient):

Distributism, also known as distributionism and distributivism, is a third-way economic philosophy formulated by such Roman Catholic thinkers as G. K. Chesterton andHilaire Belloc to apply the principles of Catholic Social Teaching articulated by the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Pope Leo XIII‘s encyclical Rerum Novarum and more expansively explained by Pope Pius XI‘s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno According to distributism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (indirect socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in Chesterton’s statement: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

Essentially, distributism distinguishes itself by its distribution of property (not to be confused with redistribution of capital that would be carried out by most socialist ideologies). Distributism holds that, while socialism allows no individuals to own productive property (it all being under state, community, or workers’ control), and capitalism allows only a few to own it, distributism itself seeks to ensure that most people will become owners of productive property. As Hilaire Belloc stated, the distributive state (that is, the state which has implemented distributism) contains “an agglomeration of families of varying wealth, but by far the greater number of owners of the means of production.”This broader distribution does not extend to all property, but only to productive property; that is, that property which produces wealth, namely, the things needed for man to survive. It includes land, tools, etc.

So there you have it. I fully intend to come back to this at a future point, but reserve the right not to.

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