The Political Economy of Distributism
Property, Liberty, and the Common Good
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
In recent years, prominent scholars, public intellectuals, and politicians have advocated reforming America’s economic model to embrace "common-good capitalism." Catholic social teaching is a major influence on this movement. Is common-good capitalism compatible with the historical American commitments to private property rights and ordered liberty? What resources from Catholic social teaching can help orient free enterprise towards the common good? This book is the first scholarly inquiry into these exciting new questions.
We can better understand common-good capitalism by exploring the political economy of distributism. Formulated in the early 20th century by prominent Catholic intellectuals such as Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, distributism emphasizes the importance of widely dispersed property ownership for human flourishing. Distributist thinkers, opposed both to capitalism and socialism, sought a humane approach to politics and economics that reflected the truths of Catholic social teaching.
Some of the distributists’ claims about markets and government must be revised in light of contemporary social science. Nevertheless, their political-economic vision contains profound truths about the human condition, which social scientists would be unwise to ignore. Distributism’s insights about the nature of liberty and the social foundations of human dignity can improve ongoing conversations among economists, political scientists, and philosophers.
The Political Economy of Distributism explores distributism both as a research program and a blueprint for political-economic reform. As many are reconsidering the relationship between markets and government, this timely book demonstrates the perennial relevance of the Catholic intellectual tradition to public affairs. Academics, public servants, policy experts, and concerned citizens can all benefit from this timely study of common-good capitalism’s prospects.
"A clear treatment of an incredibly complex and comprehensive set of ideas. The relatively simple narrative of three primary thinkers gives a structure to the wider debate that is being illuminated. The prose is weighty without being dense. The citations are appropriate for the material that is being presented. The ideas are documented carefully without self-indulgent tangents that would be distracting to the main narrative. Salter points with clarity to those that are currently engaging in the frontiers of scholarship while establishing an omission in the current literature from thinkers whose important contributions are missing from that conversation. Salter should be commended in taking on more controversial topics with examples that could be misunderstood if not treated carefully."~Michael David Thomas, Creighton University
" The Political Economy of Distributism is a refreshing read. Alexander William Salter helpfully separates the wheat from the chaff in the social and economic views of Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, and Wilhelm Ropke. A sympathetic portrayal of their economic concerns and positive vision for society is offered, one which pays them the respect of pointing out when they've made economic mistakes. But rather than dismissing their views wholesale, Salter shows how despite some faulty economic science there is much to value in their economic philosophy. The end result is a scholarly work that takes property, liberty, and the common good seriously."~Ryan T. Anderson, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center
"Professor Salter does the American public a great service by shedding new light and bringing new voices to bear on the Common Good Capitalism conversation. Our country has never been about the pursuit of profits above all else, just as it has never been about totalitarian socialism. Yet for several decades our economic discourse has been dominated by a bipartisan economic consensus that puts man at the service of markets. Fortunately, that is beginning to change. The Political Economy of Distributism is on the crest of a new wave of literature using ancient wisdom, Catholic Social Teaching, and modern science to chart a better, more dignified path forward for America. I am grateful to Professor Salter for his contributions, and I am confident that, God willing, they will bear fruit for our nation."~Marco Rubio, United States Senator, R-FL
"With his brilliant The Political Economy of Distributism, Alex Salter has created a true tour de force. Delving deeply into the tragically neglected works of G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Wilhelm Roepke, Salter also considers the very important works and ideas of James Buchanan, Douglass North, Adrian Vermeulle, Joseph Pearce, and Patrick Deneen. Most interesting, though, are Salter’s own ideas and take on distributism. Rightly recognizing the distributists as better social critics than actual economists, he masterfully connects property rights to economic security and to political stability. The Political Economy of Distributism is a book that demands a place on the shelf of every serious and thoughtful person."~Bradley J. Birzer, author of Russell Kirk: American Conservative
"Dr. Salter’s book is a much-needed scholarly work on the ideas of distributism, as presented in the writings of Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton. Written in such a way that it will pass muster in the ivory towers of academe, it is also accessible for any reader interested in politics and economics, or indeed the minds and ideas of messieurs Belloc and Chesterton."~The Imaginative Conservative