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Beyond Distributism

*This is a digital copy of Beyond Distributism
Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
Published on June 17th, 2016
  • $3.99
Troubled by rampant injustice and inequality, many conscientious Christians advocate radical economic reforms. Distributism, a program that traces its popularity to Catholic writers Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, promotes the widespread ownership of property by tempering the market with guilds or similar associations. By its nature, distributism must invoke the power of the state, a dangerous move that ultimately undermines its own objectives. Economic freedom in a market system, Thomas Woods advises, is a context more conducive to justice and human flourishing. Nostalgia is a useful and dangerous thing. At its best, it connects us to the past, providing a sense of community over time and guarding against what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Less helpfully, it can lead to mythologizing the past and blind us to the advantages of the present. The ongoing appeal to Catholics of the economic arrangements called distributism and corporatism manifests in some cases the harmful form of nostalgia. In response, Thomas Woods pares away the inaccuracies of economic history that have accumulated over the last hundred years. Never does he call into question the good will of those who advocate older or more ideal forms of economic organization. Instead, he argues that the kinds of economic reform explicitly or implicitly promoted by the various defenders of distributism are imprudent. They would not further the ends that all devotees of Catholic social teaching share: wide ownership of property, service of the common good with particular attention to the poor, and a right ordering of the use of material goods.
  • Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

    THOMAS E. WOODS, JR., is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard, and his master’s and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. His eight books include Sacred Then and Sacred Now: The Return of the Old Latin Mass, 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, The Church Confronts Modernity, the New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and (with Kevin R. C. Gutzman) Who Killed the Constitution? Woods won first place in the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Awards for his book The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy.

    Woods’ writing has appeared in dozens of popular and scholarly periodicals, including the American Historical Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Investor’s Business Daily, Catholic Historical Review, Modern Age, Catholic Social Science Review, Inside the Vatican, Human Events, University Bookman, Journal of Markets & Morality, New Oxford Review, Religion & Liberty, and Human Rights Review. For eleven years Woods served as associate editor of The Latin Mass magazine, and is currently a contributing editor of The American Conservative. A contributor to six encyclopedias, Woods is also co-editor of Exploring American History: From Colonial Times to 1877, an eleven-volume encyclopedia.
    Woods lives in Auburn, Alabama, with his wife and three daughters, and maintains a Website at

Beyond Distributism

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