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The Political Economy of Distributism

Property, Liberty, and the Common Good

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.

About the Author

Alexander William Salter is Georgie G. Snyder Associate Professor of Economics in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, the Comparative Economics Research Fellow at TTU's Free Market Institute, and an associate editor of the Journal of Private Enterprise.


"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

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