Chesterton’s Distributism and the Revaluation of Progress

Charles A. McDaniel

Charles A. McDaniel notes that the social philosophy known as Distributism emerged during the Industrial Revolution to address the abuses and challenge the pretensions of both socialism and capitalism. G. K. Chesterton was an articulate spokesman for Distributism’s vision of widely distributed property who posited the unthinkable—that a materially “steadystate” society or even one of declining material affluence can be a good thing if it proportions progress in a way that preserves defining cultural and spiritual values. Distributism exists outside the paradigm of many Christians who, with the aid of Friedrich Hayek and others in the classical liberal tradition, have made huge strides in synthesizing Christian and capitalist ethics. Contrasting the economic ideas of Chesterton and Hayek thus opens a unique window into the future of values that reveals the profound investment of Christians in capitalism, not simply for the allocation of material goods and determination of worldly justice, but as the source for what is moral, good, and true. This article is excerpted from a forthcoming book tentatively entitled God and Money: The Moral Challenge of Our Capitalist Culture (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007). Mr. McDaniel is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Church- State Studies Department at Baylor University.

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