We sometimes think of authors as as persons working in lonely isolation to produce a manuscript, but in fact no work worthy of note is produced this way. A book—a good book—is actually a conversation. First of all, it is a conversation with other authors in the same field. Presumably, the author is familiar with their works; he draws on some and critiques others in presenting his own ideas. But a book is also a conversation with its audience. The author has some idea of who they are and of how to address them. Until recently, the conversation with colleagues took place both before and after publication, but the conversation with the audience could take place only after publication. The internet changes that. A work can be circulated while it is still in progress, and comment and critiques can be gathered from both colleagues and the general public alike, and the text revised before publication, rather than merely excused or defended afterwards.
I think this is a better way to write a book. Publishers may be leery of this method, since the wide availability prior to publication may mean lower sales. I suspect the opposite is true. Those who contribute to the work will be more likely to buy the final product, not less so. Or at least, that is my hope. I am beginning a new book. I think it is a book that is needed right now. Its working title is The Political Economy o f Distributism. I believe the need for this book arises from a very sad fact: Distributists, of all those who seek reform of the current system, are the one's least likely to be conversant with economic theory. And it has been this way almost from the beginning. Neither Chesterton nor Belloc had any great interest in economic theory for its own sake; they were interested in restoring the lost rights of the working man and the lost position of the family. Belloc did write a text, Economics for Helen, but even the title indicated his general disinterest in the topic. “Helen” was taken to be a curious student, and all that she, or anyone else, needed to know of economics could be taught in a very short space. And while that is true in a certain sense, it is also inadequate; a serious theory needs serious work. Too often, we have left the hard work to our opponents. This is not to deny that some great economists have contributed to Distributist theory, but it is to admit that there are fewer than we would like, and we have often ignored even their great works.
Distributists need to be equipped with a good grasp of economic theory so that they can engage their critics on their own terms. Alas, we have a tendency, I think, to merely reject their questions out of hand, without giving them an adequate answer, one that the critic can grasp. This is especially unfortunate, since I believe that Distributism is a superior economic theory, able to stand against the best critiques that the neoclassicals, the Austrians, the Keynesians, the Socialists, and anybody else can offer. A further problem is that the lack of economic sophistication is that it leaves us ill-equipped to talk with others in allied movements, movements like Mutualism, Georgism, agrarianism, Schumacher's theories, etc. Indeed, it seems to me that we have difficulty telling our friends from our enemies, and have often (for example) swallowed the worst parts of Austrian theories while rejecting the best.
This subject deserves a vast tome. I will not be writing that tome; I will leave that task to better minds than mine. What I would like to write is a relatively short book (150-175 pages) to give the non-specialist a solid grasp of some basic principles. The very simple “meta-message” of this book will be that without an account of Distributive Justice, no description or an economy can be complete; there will be gaps in the science and hence flaws in the prescriptions. These are precisely the gaps that Distributism is meant to fill, and the flaws that it is meant to correct.
I am going to post the book a chapter at a time, as a write it, and as I hear from our loyal readers, I will re-write it. But the first think to get right in a book is to get the scope right. That is, it ought to cover the right subjects. So I start with the table of contents, here offered for your critical examination. It will be noticed right off that there is a lot left out. That is, of course, by design. There is nothing on money and monetary theory, a subject requiring tomes of its own. There is nothing on development, trade, outsourcing, etc., topics that certainly need to be addressed today. And if the consensus is that at least some of these topics need to be included, I will include even at the risk of making the book longer than I would like. But in any case, I would greatly appreciate your comments, pro or con, good or bad. I would like to know where the text is clear, and where it is obscure; where the theory hangs together, and where it seems to fall apart. Mostly, I would like us to use our collective talents to reason together and produce a useful text. I thank, in advance, all who will advance this project.
Economics and Political Economy
The Failure of the Distributists
Does Capitalism Work?
What is Capitalism?
Something is Working, But is it Capitalism?
The Keynesian Divide
The Law of Unintended Consequences
Why Capitalism Fails
Economics as a Science
The “Normative-Positive” Debate
The Physical and Humane Sciences
Science and the Moral Law
The Purpose of an Economy
What it Must do.
What it ought to do
What is Must not do
The Economic Questions
Supply and Demand
The Just Wage and Economic Equilibrium
Justice: Distributive and Corrective
The Enlightenment's search for Economic Laws
The Elimination of Distributive Justice
Equity and Equilibrium
Power, Property, and Equity
J. B. Clark and Marginal Productivity
A Smithian Critique of Clark
Property and Power
Prices and Value-Theory
“Flat” and “Fair”?
Adam Smith's Principles of Taxation
The Common Good and the Commonwealth
What Should we Tax?
Taxes and User Fees
The Role of Government
Can the Federal Budget be Cut?
Aristotle's Principle of Regulation
Information and Regulation
The Triumphs of Distrbutism
The “Land to the Tiller” Program (Taiwan)
The Cooperative Economy of Emila-Romagna (Italty)
ESOPs (United States)
Micro-credit (Bangladesh, World-wide)
The Way Forward
The Political Problem
The Cultural Problem
The Current Opportunities