I’m certainly not in favour of all things that could fit under the banner of socialism or communism. Some stupid and evil things have been done within the realm of those labels. Still, I do believe that it is allowable and desirable to have a government that fights wealth inequality, especially by helping the poor, but also by counteracting to some degree and in some way the efforts of the wealthy to enrich themselves. An excessive concentration of wealth in few hands is bad for the political community, and also unhealthy for those who are rich.
Plato in the Laws, and in a different way Thomas More in Utopia, considered it a valuable thing to place constraints and obstacles against people growing too wealthy.
But people get fearful when they hear this sort of talk. If we don’t give smart people the chance to get really wealthy in our political community, then they’ll leave us for someplace where they can get really wealthy! Then we’ll have no smart people left. That’s brain drain. So the thinking goes.
As a matter of fact, that’s not quite correct though. It’s not smart people who will leave. Smart people like to live in places that are welcoming to, respectful of, and facilitative for intellectual activity and intellectual achievement. If we want to keep smart people around, we should focus our efforts on those things.
Who then will take off in a huff when denied the chance to become obscenely wealthy? Only the avaricious. And we are almost certainly better off without them.
I know that that’s not the approved thinking in the world of capitalism. The greed of the greedy is the real fuel that powers our economy, alongside the desperation of the needy. If we frustrated the lusts of the greedy, and addressed the fears of the impoverished, how could the economy hope to carry on?
This is where I suspect that Belloc’s distributism holds great opportunities for us today, if we can search them out.