Private Property- Just or Unjust?

private property 2Gracie Hayhurst 4

In today’s society, there is an extreme distance between the very destitute and the very rich. Tribal people living in mud huts in the bush of Africa and billionaires living in mansions in Beverly Hills emphasizes the vast gap between those who lack and those who have an abundance. Clearly, wealth is not distributed equally throughout society and there is a massive gap between rich and poor that seems almost unethical and wrong. People dream of a world with complete equality and fairness, a world where the playing field to find a stable job is leveled and there is economic equality for all. A world free from the strain that poverty brings seems ideal and almost romantic. However, the socialist regime created by Karl Marx to remedy this extreme gap in economic inequality by allowing the state to have complete ownership of all economic and material things in society is not the solution to the problem. Conversely, allowing people to exercise the right to obtain property is to aid the spread of justice.  

            Some argue that if the state had the authority to administer land to people as they pleased then the problem with poverty and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor would diminish. They also believe that this would help the poverty stricken with human dignity. Yes, human dignity entails making sure all people groups basic needs in society are met, be it political, social, or economic, but socialist regimes do not give people economic freedom to do as they please with the money they make. As it is stated in the Rerum Novarum, “socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages.” Therefore, when people are stripped of their liberty to obtain private property, they are also stripped of their ability to increase and improve the condition of their life. People who own no private property are stuck in a stagnant and monotonic state of life. This is dangerous to human life and the dignity of all peoples.

            Pope Leo makes an interesting point when he states, “every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. This is one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation.” The difference between animals and humans is the right to choose. When humans are stripped of any sort of private property, they are also stripped of their freedom to choose. To strip humans of their right to obtain property (which is a natural right) is to dehumanize the human species.  Part of the wonders of being human is that we are an individual. Just like ones fingerprints, no two humans are the same. Abolishing private property would take away from the beauty of individualism. Often is the case that people show their individualism and who they are on the inside through their material possession’s be it clothing, car choice or the types of food they choose to eat.

            Many people may argue that the earth is not ours to take, but it was in fact created for the purpose of bettering the human condition. As it says in the Rerum Novarum, “man should not only possess the fruits of the earth, but also the very soil.” The human condition cannot be improved unless people possess the earth to help improve their state of being.  Pope Leo explains that, “that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life’s well-being, is produced in great abundance in soil, BUT not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended it his solicitude ad skill.” A man cannot fully put all of his effort and work into a job with no goal in mind. A man will only work hard when he knows he will obtain a prize of the fruits of the earth. To give a man no prize for complete labor is, as Pope Leo says, “defrauding man of what his labor has produced.”

            Many people argue that removing private property would lead to a fairer world, however the opposite is true. Once a man is able to obtain the fruits of his own labor he will experience true peace and tranquility. It would be unfair to take away the feeling of accomplishment one feels when he receives the material awards of his labor. Once ownership of private property is given to the state, as Pope Leo explains, “the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation.” Giving the state ownership of private property does nothing to create a fairer world; all it does is strip humans of their natural right to obtain and work towards owning property and diminishes the condition of mankind. No private property would, in a sense, reduce the peoples in society to a state of slavery. People would not have a prize they would be working towards; they would just be working for the state with no goal in mind other than just completing the task. This would be unfair to all peoples in society for it would take away their dignity.

            Taking away private property would also lead to weakening of the family unit. The Rerum Novarum says that, “it is almost the sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten.” The basis of a family is that the head of the family cares for and provides the material goods to the family. If the state were to take away private property it would be unjust because it would be taking away the incentive and means by which fathers provide for their families.  Just like the state, as Pope Leo explains, the family unit has equal rights in “the choice and the pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty.” Meaning, as it is in accordance to natural law, the leader of the house has the right to do whatever they deem appropriate to preserve the health and welfare of the family unit. Without private property the choice to better and improve the family through material possession would be taken away.  Pope Leo calls the belief that the state has the right to intrude upon family life a “great and pernicious error.” In a sense, children are the father’s property. Children still have the right to exercise free will, but they can only do so under the auspices of the head of the household.  In contradistinction, by providing for the material needs of all societal members, Socialism usurps power from the household leaders and in effect disrupts the balance within the family unit. 

 In conclusion, it is unjust and unethical to strip humans of their right to obtain private property. Pope Leo raises a question that perhaps closes the argument that nationalizing property is right when he says, “Is it just that the fruit of a man’s own sweat and labor should be possessed and enjoyed by anyone else? As effects follow their cause, so is it just and right that the results of labor should belong to those who have bestowed their labor.” It is unjust and wrong to give the fruits of man’s own labor to the state. Taking away private property would not create a happy utopia, but rather a depressed and stagnant society in which all the members were not working toward any goal in particular and individualism and the role of the household would be abolished.

Work Cited

Klassen Bronze. Digital image. Klassen Bronze. The Home Depot, n.d. Web. 08 May 2013


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s