The debate over private property, whether it is just or unjust, has been a controversial discussion since the times of Karl Marx, or the early 1800s. Many agree with Marx in that private ownership and property is unconstitutional while others side with Ludwig Von Mises and view private property as a crucial need. The modern definition of private property in business dictionary as a “tangible and intangible [thing] owned by individuals or firms over which their owners have exclusive and absolute legal rights, such as land, buildings, money, [etc…]; private property can be transferred only with its owner’s consent and by due process such as sale or gift” is in accordance with that of Mises in his reading “Liberty and Property,” meaning people to this day are still in search of obtaining that same freedom as those in the 1800s.(1) Not only will private property promote true freedom for countries and their citizens but also create a balance and close the gap between the wealthy and the poor.
Mises believes that freedom is a human right – everyone deserves liberty. Private property is liberty, one reason being that it essentially allows for a just way towards a stable economy by promoting individualism in a way that “serve[s] the consumers better and cheaper than others do.” (2) This gives the working class an opportunity to lift themselves out of the lower-class and stop settling with the conformity of not having much. Although the government and its interference is necessary to a certain extent, it should not prohibit people the right to private property because doing so is a violation to obtaining true and complete freedom. For in agreement with “Liberty and Property” the only way in indulging in true freedom is when one can find themselves out of reach of the government, all decisions and actions are completely done on one’s own. Motivation is a key concept in the drive to wealth and prosperity, and private property would provide just that incentive to all those who find themselves in situations where a greater income is a necessity. The reality of not settling for less and gaining wealth, which leads to power, is the ultimate incentive for the working class.
Marx is a supporter of the communist party, a group of people who oppose the idea of private property. In communism, there are two groups of people: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The Bourgeoisie stays in control because they are the ones that obtain wealth, while the proletariat is the working class that fall into the lower class of people; however, the proletariat is the majority and therefore the wealthy fear the time the working class comes into control because the gap between the two classes is unjustly divided. Marx believes that history is a cycle of oppression driving at something, trying to avoid the proletariat to come into control. The system stops once we abolish private property because only the wealthy should have control to the means of production. Socialists view private property in a different approach than that of communists but would still disagree with Mises in that “it is the means to stimulate a nation’s most enterprising men to exert themselves to the best of their abilities in the serve of all of the people.” (3) To them, private property is a step back towards prosperity and views it as an evil that takes a way rights more than it gives. Socialism is the “theory of social organization by which production, consumption, and exchange is controlled by the community as a whole”. (1)
However, this is not the case, because even though socialism thinks that allowing others to own land of their own despite how large the quantity, they view it as taking away from others while the reality of this is that it only benefits the whole of society, not hurts it. The earth is indeed everyone’s but “the preservation of life….is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill.” (4) This is only possible with allowing humans the right and freedom of private property, and cultivate it to the best of their ability. Because most private property is used for business which is to the benefit of consumers and contributes to the good of society, private property is just, not a selfish or individual want. Taking away private property would also take away “the mind, or reason, which is the predominant element in us who are human creatures; it is this which renders a human being human, and distinguishes him essentially from the brute” as Pope Leo XIII stated in Rerum Novarum. (4) It is choice that differentiates people from any other creature; the ability to choose and to the right to posses and cultivate are characters that make us unique. To not take use of those gifts for the benefit of society not only is a waste of a gift but also a lack of pride as humans. We ourselves are belittling the human race when in fact humans should take pride and not settle to the standards of normal creatures. Aristotle states that the “exercise of reason will be the complete happiness of man” and in making decisions of our own without limitations or interference with the government with our private property can man do exactly that. (5)
In contemporary governments in countries around the world, the practice of private property among their people has proven beneficial to each economy. Those who agree with the idea and find private property just are countries that are one of the richest in the world. Sweden’s government and economy for example versus that of Ethiopia, is stronger and more stable. Although there are many other contributing factors to the wealth and poverty of each country, the 90 percent of all production and resources that are owned by private property owners and companies in Sweden has greatly contributed to the prosperity the country, making it the sixth richest country in the world. If those countries, for example Ethiopia, would encourage private property and abolish the many restrictions imposed on what a citizen can do with their land or not, the country could uplift itself from their low rank of global poverty it is currently in. Another reason why private property is beneficial to the growth of wealth is that it also allows for trade as it is a “mutual exchange” between two groups of people that is completed if it benefits both parties. Socialists argue that the “mutual exchange of commodities and services on the market” does not grant freedom but takes it away because it discredits the producers. However, the opposite of this is true: the producer receives acknowledgement. This acknowledgement also serves as an incentive to satisfy the consumer, a key idea stated in the previous paragraph.
As Mises and Pope Leo XIII have stated in their works, private property is to the benefit of the people and society as a whole. Contrary to the argument of Marx, the communist party, and the socialist party, it is not unconstitutional and only promotes freedom, a basic and most necessary human right. Private property provides goods for consumers and allows for the working class to work harder with no higher power while still challenging themselves and improving their skills. With private property, people are able to obtain true riches which one reaches at the final end. These true riches permit humans to live in accordance with reason, a philosophy Aristotle teaches, while false riches do not and serve only as distractions towards achieving the end goal of happiness. In following human virtues, working with an incentive, and using the human distinctions of reason and choice to the best of one’s abilities, the gap between the wealthy and the poor closes, one lives a life of freedom and happiness, proving that private property is just.
(1) “What Is Private Property? Definition and Meaning.” BusinessDictionary.com. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.
(2) “Liberty and Property.” Mises Institute. Accessed December 1, 2014.
(3) Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988
(4) The Condition of Labor: Rerum Novarum : Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII. Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1942
(5) 1920. Aristotle’s Politics. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press.
1920. Aristotle’s Politics. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press.
“IPRI 2014.” IPRI 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/country?s=Sweden.
“IPRI 2014.” IPRI 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014. http://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/country?s=Ethiopia
“Liberty and Property.” Mises Institute. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn University, 1988
“Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich (Image) | Economics and Politics.” Before It’s News. Accessed December 1, 2014
The Condition of Labor: Rerum Novarum : Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII. Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1942
“What Is Private Property? Definition and Meaning.” BusinessDictionary.com. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.