Roman Catholic theologian Hilaire Belloc stated in his book “The Great Heresies” that man is either enslaved by government (socialism, communism) or enslaved by private corporations and individuals with power and influence. He is of course referring to the downside of our capitalistic system which he describes as being “the exploitation of the masses of men still free by a few owners of the means of production, transport and exchange.” He warns that the worse this exploitation becomes, “the more the State steps in to enforce conditions of security and sufficiency; the more it regulates wages, provides compulsory insurance, doctoring, education, and in general takes over the lives of the wage-earners.” In other words, if private enterprise and wealthy individuals don’t police themselves and capitalism as we know it today is allowed to continue unchecked, “socialism is the logical conclusion as captialism’s concentrated powers eventually capture the State.” Belloc cautions that socialism creates a whole new set of issues and points out that the “Nanny State” isn’t working out so well in those countries where it is prevalent. He proposes a better solution.
Belloc supports property ownership for all citizens because he believes it is the most effective way to prevent capitalism from running amok. In expressing this opinion, he is joining his fellow Roman Catholic theology, G. K. Chesterton as an advocate for “distributism.”
According to “Wikipedia,” distributism is an economic system that promotes property ownership as a fundamental right of all citizens. Belloc points out that only through property ownership can we be free from the enslavement of the State and private enterprise. Distributism is opposed to both capitalism and socialism. Thomas Storck states that distributism “seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life.” Under such a system, most people would be able to earn a living without having to rely on the use of the property of others to do so. Most people were under this economic system when 90% of them were farmers, a hundred years ago and, in this sense, distributism is equivalent to returning to an agrarian society. The concept is that people are likely to work harder and with greater commitment if they themselves possess the land on which they labor, which in turn will benefit them and their families as workers will be able to provide for themselves and their household. Of course, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” we can’t go back home again and encourage our citizens to take up farming, but Belloc’s point is that this same concept can be applied to our situation today. Workers work better when they have an ownership share in the businesses that employ them.
Wikipedia devotes eleven pages to describing this system, and it is not my purpose in this blog to go into such detail. My purpose is to whet the appetite of my readers to learn more about distributism and see if they don’t agree with me, Belloc, Chesterton and many others that our legislators and administration can learn a lot from this system and pass legislation that utilizes some of its finer principles. It only makes sense.