I came upon this passage in Belloc's The Servile State and found it thoroughly fascinating, on several levels:
Either they would put property into the hands of most citizens, so dividing land and capital that a determining number of families in the State were possessed of the means of production ; or they would put those means of production into the hands of the political officers of the community, to be held in trust for the advantage of all.
The first solution may be called the attempted establishment of the DISTRIBUTIVE STATE. The second may be called the attempted establishment of the COLLECTIVIST STATE.
Those who favour the first course are the Conservatives or Traditionalists. They are men who respect and would,if possible, preserve the old forms of Christian European life. They know that property was thus distributed throughout the State during the happiest periods of our past history; they also know that where it is properly distributed to-day, you have greater social sanity and ease than elsewhere. In general, those who would re-establish, if possible, the Distributive State in the place of, and as a remedy for, the vices and unrest of Capitalism, are men concerned with known realities, and having for their ideal a condition of society which experience has tested and proved both stable and good. They are then, of the two schools of reformers, the more practical in the sense that they deal more than do the Collectivists (called also Socialists) with things which either are or have been in actual existence.
According to Belloc (writing back in 1913) the Collectivist or Socialist, meanwhile, "proposes to put land and capital into the hands of the political officers of the community, and this on the understanding that they shall hold such land and capital in trust for the advantage of the community. In making this proposal he is evidently dealing with a state of things hitherto imaginary, and his ideal is not one that has been tested by experience" or Western history.
Now the first thing to notice here is that that last remark so dated as to be refuted by fact. More than that: refuted by the most pulverizing fact of the 20th century. I mean the calamitous cavalcade of cruelty and depravity and fraud that was the fact of Socialism in operation; I mean Collectivism far from imaginary or untested but rather horribly real and tyrannical.
Belloc favored the Distributive State, and I think that the judgment of history favors his wisdom on that point.
But what of this talk of "the old forms of Christian European life," these "happiest periods" of "social sanity"? Well, Belloc was a mediaevalist, of course. He believed that the Modern Age was on balance a decline from a great achievement, not a progression away from a failed form. Like Chesterton he may have overreached in his claims for the greatness of the Middle Ages. He may have fancied that the mediaevals lived a life much like that of Tolkien's Shire, and conveniently neglected some of the terrors of their age. Fair enough.
But if their romance of the Middle Ages was exaggerated, the fact of the misery of Socialism in practice is hard to exaggerate. It was as close to Mordor as can has been accomplished by men.
I invite any reader intrigued by all this to read Belloc's book. A fine edition at a very reasonable price is available from Liberty Fund. One of the treats of this prescient essay is Belloc's lucid narrative of Christian civilization's great gradual transformation of the slavery of Greek and Roman antiquity into the stable structure of distributed property enjoyed during the High Middle Ages.