Alexis Madormo – Period 7
The issue of private property has raised arguments and opinions that make people reconsider the meaning of ownership and whether or not it is appropriate. Private property can be considered as objects or ideas owned by a group or individual for their use and credit. This property includes intellectual and physical property. Debates on whether common property should be shared, divided, or considered private have caused the opinions of many economists and thinkers to be published.
Ludwig von Mises was a philosopher, economist and sociologist that gave serious insight on economy. His most famous work was Human Action that addressed praxeology, or human behavior. He was the first scholar to conclude that economics contributes greatly to human action. Most of his works and lectures revolved around the difference of controlled and free markets by applying history, theories, governments and examples to make his claims (Ludwig von Mises Institute). He had a strong passion for liberty, freedom, and the well-being of society.
Freedom in Liberty and Property was called, “indivisible.” This meaning that freedom is not capable of being broken apart and distributed. Each human is born with the ability to make decisions. If this capability were to be deducted, an individual would no longer be human. As explained by von Mises, “He who has not the faculty to choose among various brands of canned food or soap, is also deprived of the power to choose between various political parties and programs and to elect the officeholders. He is no longer a man; he becomes a pawn in the hands of the supreme social engineer.” As long as people have the opportunity to choose when given a series of decisions, they are considered free. Anything that obstructs the facility of an individual to make the choice they wanted–either a dangerous obstruction or secure obstruction—causes the individual to have a lack of freedom. Consequently, if one desires to invent or work towards an idea or object, they can choose to call it their own. This material would become their private property. Von Mises agreed that freedom plays a major part in the welfare of the people. “In a free country nobody is prevented from acquiring riches… What he needs is only brains and hard work.” For some governments, freedom is not admired. For instance, the Soviet system disagrees with freedom and believes that wealth is more valuable; they also dislike the idea of private property. This takes away the meaning of the individual and their freedom to do what they desire.
Some may argue that all goods and property should be shared equally with the public, such as the Soviet government system. To please both the freedom perspective and property equality perspective, free goods should be defined. Free goods are goods that have no opportunity cost. They are available to any and all people. Some examples are air, water and intellectual ideas (Pettinger). Private property refers to the possessions or ideas created and owned by an individual, whereas free goods are shared with all individuals as a whole. They are guaranteed to all individuals and can be considered common property. Private property gives the individual the opportunity to possess something as their own, whereas free goods are considered all human’s possessions.
Individualism is fundamentally the theory of ownership in the right to act individually. In other words, encouraging people that their mind and body is their own and they allowed to do what they desire. The theory promotes the ability of the individual to think and create freely and not be controlled by others. “All spiritual and material achievements of Western Civilization were the result of this idea of liberty.” This could relate to the proposal that man himself is the owner of himself, or he is his own private property. If this principle–which is most common in Western social philosophy–transmitted throughout the world and throughout the economy, the argument of private property would be less controversial. Each human would have control and ownership of everything his body or mind creates, which is basically everything he does in life.
The issue of property has been developing throughout the world’s history. Private property could be considered a human device, or something that has consistently existed. Some of the first examples of this human device are land property (“Private Property”). When a man discovered a piece of land that he wanted, he would put his effort and work into it to make it his own. The time, stress and labor he put into the piece of land makes it his possession. If others were to take the land from him, it would be both morally and practically unjust. Unless trading of the land was completed with the consent of the owner, it is wrong for one to take the private property of another. It is part of the human purpose to acquire necessities to live and to gain their highest means; if this means to gain ownership through the work of the individual, then private property is acceptable.
Ownership in the market economy focuses on the factors of production. The services put into the creation of the goods are controlled, which takes part in establishing whose property it is. This does not mean restrictions are created, but it establishes “the freedom of all other people to choose what suits them best.” If one owns the material factors of production, it does not mean that they are in complete control; rather, it insinuates that the consumer is in control of the outcome of the good. Von Mises stated, “It is subject to the supremacy of the consumers. The consumer is king, is the real boss, and the manufacturer is done for if he does not outstrip his competitors in best serving consumers.” Moreover, private property is the basis of economic affairs, but the consumer is the superiority. The following summary is given to explain the idea of ownership previously explained:
An inventor has control over the good they created. It is under the inventor’s authority for them to decide what market process it will go through (because it is his private property). He may keep the power to himself, share it with others, or transfer it. With this ability, he does not obtain any power over others in society. With or without assistance, the inventor can choose any accommodating arrangements with any other inventors or businesses. The property the inventor owns creates the basis of the market and of the good (“Private Property”).
If private property were to be called unjust in current culture, all ways of life would be entirely unusual. To change the fairness of private property today, it would be seen as completely illogical. Citizens in the United States would most likely retaliate in order to defend their right to private property. Ownership, as stated before, is a human device. Because it has been such a practiced in the world both negatively and positively, it seems almost strange to call it unjust. If it is unjust, why has it not been abolished throughout the world?
Von Mises would consider the basis of the rules of private property revolved around the source of the property, and the amount of authority given to each individual. Private property is an aspect of freedom and liberty. To put work and effort into an idea or object, it makes it private and one’s own. If private property were not permitted, it would not give the option of creating individual goods, which also incorporates individualism and the theory that each human is allowed to express him or herself. Each person should have control over themselves and what they accomplish. The control they have over themselves is up to their own judgment; they are their own private property and are able to do what they want in life. Also, the market system requires some sort of private property, or consumers would have no ability to consume organized or quality goods. It can then be concluded that private property is a just right given to every human.
“Biography of Ludwig Von Mises (1881-1973).” Ludwig Von Mises Institute. N.p., 2010. Web. 03 May 2013.
Pettinger, Tejvan. “Definition of a Free Good.” Economics Blog. N.p., 3 May 2011. Web. 03 May 2013.
“Private Property.” Ludwig Von Mises Institute. N.p., 08 Dec. 2010. Web. 05 May 2013.
Von, Mises Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988. Print.