: chesterton’s vision of distributism65
The employers talk about “private enterprise,” as if there wasanything private about modern enterprise. Its combines areas big as many commonwealths; and things advertised in largeletters on the sky cannot plead the shy privileges of privacy.Meanwhile the Labour men talk about the need to “nation-alise” the mines or the land, as if it were not the great difﬁcultyin a plutocracy to nationalise the government, or even to na-tionalise the nation.
hesterton’s own sympathies lay on the side of Labour, but he believed that the proposed statist solution—together with its rejec-ion by the plutocracy—was an absurdity: “The mob howls beforehe palace gates, ‘Hateful tyrant, we demand that you assume moredespotic powers’; and the tyrant thunders from the balcony, ‘Vilerebels, do you dare to suggest that my powers should be extended?’There seems to be a little misunderstanding somewhere.”
To fathom out this misunderstanding, says Chesterton, we needo get to the root of the problem faced by modern Western civiliza-ion: “We must begin at the beginning; we must return to our ﬁrstorigins in history, as we must return to our ﬁrst principles in phi-losophy. We must consider how we came to be doing what we do,and even saying what we say.”
What is the ideal that modern West-ern societies are supposed to be achieving? According to Chester-on, it is democracy: “It is this which prophets promise to achieve,and politicians pretend to achieve, and poets sometimes desire toachieve, and sometimes only desire to desire. In a word, an equalcitizenship is quite the reverse of the modern world; but it is stillhe ideal of the modern world.”hesterton maintains that the source of this classical republicanideal was Rome. Yet the Republic of ancient Rome was built uponslavery, and here is the crux of the dilemma of labor and liberty inhe modern world:
The Labour problem is the attempt to have the democracyof Paris without the slavery of Rome. Between the Roman