Is Private Property Just? (Carla Benitez period 1)

By: Carla Benitez, period 1

Private property is a practical concept that allows society to function properly. The idea of owning property and using it for personal needs has been around since the beginning of time when people needed a place to store belongings and would fight over plots of land. The dictionary defines private property as “land or belongings owned by a person or group and kept for their exclusive use.” [1] Ludwig von Mises advocates private property through the appeal of capitalism; he agrees that private property has an ethical code in society, which is needed for freedom in the economy.

Through the fairness of private property, citizens are given the liberty to have options for themselves. This was not always the case, for this freedom had to be developed throughout ages beginning many centuries ago. Von Mises states in Liberty and Property that “in the eyes of [ancient] Greek and Roman writers, freedom was not something that had to be granted to all men. It was a privilege of the minority to be withheld from the majority.” The growth of capitalism allowed society to have political freedom as well as private property rights because free trade depends on these rights. Before capitalism, not everyone had full civil rights because rulers did not want to stray away from the tradition that land owners and minorities held all of the power and control in society. Ludwig von Mises supported the capitalistic system because it brought on the “transfer of economic supremacy from the owners of land to the totality of the population,” as he mentioned in his work Liberty and Property. More people were now able to control their economic status instead of being forced to depend on the higher powers of their communities. The capitalistic system goes hand in hand with the idea of private property; it helped large amounts of people thrive in their own society since traditional approaches were no longer of use. At the time, no one ever believed that it was possible to be given this kind of freedom in society because the majority of people were incredibly used to a lot of restriction and low economic status in their everyday lives. In Liberty and Property, von Mises expresses the greatness of capitalism by telling his readers that “the average common man enjoyed amenities of which even the well-to-do of earlier ages did not dream.”

Private property rights give society a balanced structure to where agreements need to be made in order to trade. Without the rights of private property, no one would have the freedom to own anything personal. There would be no opportunity to sell or trade items with one another, and belongings would not be safe without the protection of these rights. Ludwig von Mises believed that “as far as individuals have the opportunity to choose, they are free; if they are forced by violence or threat of violence to surrender to the terms of an exchange, no matter how they feel about it, they lack freedom.” Therefore, von Mises agreed with the concept of private property in society because it helps individuals and gives them freedom to make decisions. There is an ethical appeal in the use of private property rights, which grants citizens the ability to thrive individually in society.

Society is not able to function properly without the concept of private property being applied to everyday life.  Private property is a huge change from the earlier periods of limited freedom; therefore, it is a big advantage that is favored by von Mises because it creates a free society with variety and less amounts of poverty. “Most people do not confidently embrace a political stance unless it manages to embrace certain basic moral principles.” [3] Private property is a just concept that appeals to citizens because of its moral obligations; it is a human right for all people of the world. It gives the poor community an opportunity to work for themselves instead of taking away their abilities to get ahead, like the rich minority used to do. It is fair and just to allow a person to pursue self-responsibility through the notion of private property. “Since human physical survival depends on the use of material objects, people have the right to determine the uses of these material objects… Each man has the moral right to control his own labor power and to claim ownership of the fruits of his labor.” [5] Because it is seen as respectful and useful, private property is a large benefit to all members of society.

Not only does private property benefit the poor, but also it affects the wealthy people who make up the economy. Motivated by attaining freedom, people want to be able to contribute to a society they are a part of to show they are worthy members of society who deserve liberty since “society is essentially the mutual exchange of services,” according to von Mises. It gives people the inventive to work in order to sustain themselves and keep up with free trade in the economy. No one wants to get caught up in a life of poverty; therefore, private property helps communities continue to grow and progress because “it is the means to stimulate a nation’s most enterprising men to exert themselves to the best of their abilities in the service of all of the people,” in the words of von Mises. Without private property, it is difficult to develop the economy because there would not be a steady economic flow with a balance from various types of people doing their part. Lack of private property and capitalism would lead to great restrictions among citizens who are not given the opportunity to freely live their lives.

Communism is a system that completely differs from that of capitalism where private owners control the means of production and wealth as opposed to communism where property belongs to the state. [1] Capitalism gives everyone the individual opportunity to thrive with private property while communism makes it an equal opportunity for everyone, so no one can be better than the other through the economic system of communism. [3] Von Mises describes a free country with capitalism as a place where “nobody is prevented from acquiring riches by serving the consumers better than they are served already.” The author of Liberty and Property goes on to describe how capitalism has made it possible for the common man to stray away from a certain economic status in society and save money in order to invest in a brighter future for himself. “It is this efficiency that makes it possible for capitalistic business to support a rapidly increasing population at a continually improving standard of living.” Instead of free market trade, a government ruled with communism has collective ownership that makes the economy less efficient and keeps the people very controlled on what they are permitted to own. An example of a communist country today is North Korea where there is hardly any free market economics and the majority of the people live in a poor condition if they are not elitists. North Korea is in a tough economic condition where “at night, due to power failures, the lights go out.” [5]

Private property helps the members of society through individualism and support of the freedom ideals. It is a just cause to allow citizens to manage their own lives because it would be a violation of human rights to permit otherwise. Ludwig von Mises supports private property because it stimulates the economic flow of society as well as grants liberty to the majority of people. The economic system of capitalism works hand in hand with the rights of private property; they give everyone in society the opportunity to freely trade and choose to own property for themselves.private property image

Works Cited:

  1. – The World’s Favorite Online English Dictionary!” Accessed May 04, 2014.
  2. “Comparing Economic Systems.” 2008. Accessed May 05, 2014.
  3. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Right to Private Property []. Accessed May 06, 2014.
  4. Salmon, Andrew. “What Is Life like inside North Korea?” CNN. October 09, 2010. Accessed May 05, 2014.
  5. Younkins, Edward. “Private Property Rights: The Moral and Economic Foundation of a Free Society.” Private Property Rights: The Moral and Economic Foundation of a Free Society. 2000. Accessed May 06, 2014.

One thought on “Is Private Property Just? (Carla Benitez period 1)

  1. You did an excellent job tying in the different quotes from the work on Liberty and Property and other works from Wises. The issue you presented on nobody wanting to live in poverty, was very intellectual and interesting. If you had expanded a little more on this issue, that would have been better. Other than that, great job!

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