A couple of days ago I listed some of the ways that such authors as C S Lewis, Dorothy L Sayers, and G K Chesterton were antimodern, (“How do I hate thee, modernity? Let the Inklings count the ways“) I started the list with this item: “Humane economics and a holistic theological anthropology vs. utilitarianism and materialism; e.g. Sayers’s writings on vocation (vs. “homo economicus”) in Begin Here and essays such as “Why work?” Lewis’s Abolition of Man.” I left out the biggest example: the new “economic third way” promoted by Chesterton and his friend, French historian Hilaire Belloc: Distributism. As a sort of “trial article” back in 2002 when I was trying to get hired as editor of Christian History magazine, I got to write about that subject for the magazine’s Chesterton issue:
Economics after God’s Own Image
Appalled by the slavery of the British working class, Chesterton joined Hilaire Belloc in promoting a brave new ideal.
One night in 1900, deep within one of those gray British metropolises that he once called “the interior of a labyrinth of lifeless things,” G.K. Chesterton discovered a kindred spirit. At the Mont Blanc Restaurant in London’s Soho district, a man approached him and opened a decades-long conversation with the remark, “You write very well, Chesterton.”
As the evening progressed, Chesterton became increasingly excited. He had discovered in this man—the cantankerous, visionary historian and author Hilaire Belloc—a lifelong friend and intellectual partner.
George Bernard Shaw imagined this partnership as a monstrous quadruped, the “Chesterbelloc,” whose best-known idea issued from the Belloc half and was blithely accepted by the Chesterton half. That idea was distributism, a “third economic solution” distinct from both capitalism and communism. Continue reading