Distributism, or Does Economics Really Boil Down to Keynes vs. Hayek?
As a Catholic and a political conservative, I constantly find myself resolving tension between the guidance of American bishops (who lean to the Democratic Party on economic issues) and my political conservatism. To be sure, it is tension and not contradiction, but it is there nonetheless. That tension flares up when I encounter other conservatives who profess fondness for Ayn Rand, who, by my reading, is anti-conservative, militantly atheist, and anti-Christian.
A recent book by John C. Médaille, Toward a Truly Free Market, addresses this tension. In Catholic social thought, the ideas he presents have typically been labelled "distributism," a ideological trend that goes back to G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. The thing that interested me about Médaille's approach is that he proceeds by accepting some of the goods of laissez faire capitalism, and asks why we seem unable to achieve them. Why was Ronald Reagan unable to roll back the modern welfare state? Why, instead, did it grow under him?
We always draw distinctions between "good capitalism" and "crony capitalism," but why do we seem to inevitably slide to crony capitalism, with its collusion between an ever-growing Big Government and rent-seeking Big Corporations? The most appealing economic tenets that Médaille espouses are that our policy should encourage entrepreneurship at the widest level (like Bush's "ownership society"), and that it should encourage both labor AND capital while penalizing rent.
I am as dubious as the next guy when I hear about "third way" approaches, but does Chesterton provide any insights lacked by both Keynes and Hayek? Has anyone else here encountered distributism and do you have any reflections to share on it, on whether it provides us any insights in our current plight?