Redefining the Vote: Private Property and Power

Hayley Eckert

Period 7

Honorbound

On your eighteenth birthday, you receive more than just the power to buy lottery tickets and get a tattoo—you earn the right to vote. In fact, you become one of over 206 million eligible voters, ready to voice your opinion with the cast of a ballot[1]. However, are you aware that you have essentially been voting for most of your life? Through each purchase you make as a consumer, you are part of a larger democracy—the economy. In fact, your vote in the economy transcends all borders, supporting the notion of private property while boosting your market power. But what exactly is the relationship between voting in the economic sense compared to voting in the political realm? Without the right to own land and hold market power, every individual essentially loses the right to vote in politics. Because of the choices each individual makes every day, the right to vote politically stems directly from the right to vote economically, resulting in a two-pronged cycle in which every American has a say.

In order to determine the relationship between economic and political voting, we must first discuss the right to own land, or more generally, property. According to Pope Leo XIII, “every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own,” giving man resources with which to better his condition in life[2]. This right serves as “one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation,”[3] as animals are only concerned with preservation of themselves and the species rather than enjoying material goods. In fact, because “man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason,”[4] it is imperative that man possesses the right of which to use goods as much and in as many ways as he desires. Furthermore, because private property coincides with nature, Pope Leo XIII states that it is only fair for “the results of labor [to] belong to those who have bestowed their labor.”[5] Because your work belongs to you, it follows that the effects of said work should belong to you as well. In fact, this statement holds validity in the modern day—for example, consider an artist who pours herself into her work every day. Surely everyone would agree that taking her artwork and selling it as your own would be a crime—why? Because the artwork belonged to her. Similarly, if a slave worked every day to improve the same piece of land at the wish of his master, the slave should obtain ownership for the piece of labor given the notion that the results of his work are his. Therefore, every individual in society has the just right to own property, including land and material goods, as long as such property is actively improved upon and used by that individual. It is a just right, in perfect harmony with nature, to work, and the ownership of the results of such work must in turn be a natural right as well. Who would rightfully have it another way? By using private property as a means to future welfare, many more rights of the human person follow through in turn.

Expanding just from the right to own property, every individual has the right and duty to participate actively in the economy as well. Referencing a capitalistic economy, Mises puts forth the idea that “the market is a democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote.”[6] Because of the constant drive for innovation in capitalism, economic success for a business lies directly in the hands of the consumer, forcing the businesses to adapt to the needs and wants of the spending public who strive to acquire as much private property as possible. In fact, Mises notes that “economic power is ultimately vested in the hands of the buying public of which the employees themselves form the immense majority,”[7] resulting in a power shift in which the working class directly influences the actions of the elite. Each consumer holds the greatest power of all—market power—and its bold significance should not be taken lightly. With each purchase, consumers vote for what they want in the economy, what goods and services they desire. For example, consider Zhu Zhu Pets, a fad of a children’s toy which caused an economic frenzy around Christmas several years ago. Though there was no good reason why these mechanical hamster pets became so popular, the demand for Zhu Zhu Pets outstripped supply, sending frantic buyers into distress mode. Despite its seasonal success, most people nowadays do not even know what the toy is, much less want one for Christmas. This basic example shows the power every individual consumer holds in the economy—with every purchase, a consumer helps control the popularity of a product, thus boosting or diminishing the amount of competition in the industry for the product. Furthermore, Mises notes that “private property…is the means that assigns to the common man, in his capacity as a buyer, supremacy in all economic affairs.”[8] By taking an active role in the economy, each consumer voices their opinion on a grand scale, much like the role he or she plays in the political sense. According to 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.”[9] If a man cannot exercise his role as a voter in the economy, how can he exercise his role as a voter in politics?

Much like the voting present in the economy, voting in the political sense works to serve its people as well. Because politicians need votes in order to succeed, the entire political system works to favor the people. Pope Leo XIII points out that “as regards the state, the interests of all, whether high or low, are equal.”[10] Like buying a material good, voters choose their politicians based on who will best serve their needs and interests, spurring a frenzied competition in the political realm similar to that of businesses in capitalism. Harmonious with the right to own property and exercise market power, the right to vote ensures that every individual may further voice his or her opinion in the world. In fact, the duty of the politicians must be “to make sure that the laws and institutions…shall be such as themselves to realize public well-being and private prosperity.”[11] Likewise, Pope Leo XIII affirms that the government “must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working classes” in order to ensure justice and stay in power[12]. By promoting the interests of the people, politicians ensure the longevity of the natural right to own private property, forming a key relationship between politics and economics. In this way, Mises’ statement that “freedom is indivisible” will come into fruition[13], forming a better society in the process.

Because of the power of the individual to choose freely, the rights to own property and exercise market power actively create the right to vote, resulting in a direct relationship between voting in both the economic and political realms. Without these three basic rights, society would be stripped of its human nature, leaving a brutal, animalistic world in its place. Through the intervention of the government, these rights will be protected for all time, ensuring that every human holds the key to influence the world for the better. Thus, in order to advocate just representation in society, it is imperative that every individual exercises the right to vote, not just economically but politically as well. Are you ready to do your part?

 Footnotes

[1] “Voting Statistics,” Statistic Brain, 2014, <http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/>.

[2] Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum,” New Advent, 2007, <http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_le13rn.htm>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Von Mises, Ludwig. “Liberty and Property,” Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009, <http://mises.org/sites/default/files/Liberty%20and%20Property_3.pdf>.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum,” New Advent, 2007, <http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_le13rn.htm>.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Von Mises, Ludwig. “Liberty and Property,” Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009, <http://mises.org/sites/default/files/Liberty%20and%20Property_3.pdf>.

Bibliography

Labreque, Katherine. “Your Vote Your Voice.” Photograph. 2014. Houghton Star, <http://www.houghtonstar.com/2014/10/10/your-vote-your-voice/&gt;.

Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum.” New Advent. 2007. <http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_le13rn.htm>.

Von Mises, Ludwig. “Liberty and Property.” Ludwig Von Mises Institute. 2009. <http://mises.org/sites/default/files/Liberty%20and%20Property_3.pdf>.

“Voting Statistics.” Statistic Brain. 2014. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/>.

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One thought on “Redefining the Vote: Private Property and Power

  1. Very interesting blog post! I especially like the Zu Zu pet example because it is very relatable, especially during the holiday season. I also like your question at the end of your conclusion because it takes the reader one step further.

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