Private Property: Right or Privilege?

Kate Morrison- Period 5

Is private property a necessity?

Rights entail freedom, privileges entail limits. Rights cannot be taken away, but privileges are constantly revoked. “Property in a thing consists not merely in its ownership and possession, but in the unrestricted right of use, enjoyment, and disposal” [2]. To own is not simply just to own, but to be able to reap the benefits of hard work and labor put into the ownership. One will not own a house simply to look at it and admire its beauty. Just like one doesn’t own a bike to keep in a garage untouched. Instead, one will work on the house if repair is needed, and ride the bike to fulfill one’s enjoyment of the bike itself. Material property should be put to use. To sum up, ownership implies use, and without use one cannot truly say that they own anything.

What good is private property without use? Private property that is not tended to or taken care of should be put into the hands of someone who will work for it. “The market process is a daily repeated plebiscite, and it ejects inevitably from the ranks of profitable people those who do not employ their property according to the orders given by the public” [3]. Say someone were to own a dog and not feed, give drink to, or care for the dog, Why would they have the right to continue owning the dog? The same goes for the landowner who owns a plot of land but chooses to not build a house on it. There are many people willing to reap the benefits of that land but cannot do so because of the landowner. This is why without taking enough proper care of their property they can be relieved of their ownership so that it can be passed on to someone who will use the property to its fullest use. “Hence, man not only should possess the fruits of the earth, but also the very soil, inasmuch as from the produce of the earth he has to lay by provision for the future” [4]. Why would one put to waste the benefits that come with the ownership of an object? Anyone who does this should not be a deserving owner unless he is willing to work for his property.

Even further, not only does the owner put in work, but also the land he works on gives back to him as well. “Nature accordingly must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him, from which he might look to draw continual supplies” [5]. The cycle of the land giving to man and the man tending to the land is crucial for the system of private properties to survive. It allows the owner to work and recognize worth in the land, and it also allows the land to flourish and provide for the owner. The idea that the land provides for the owner all goes back to the rights that individuals have to own land and reap the benefits if they are willing and able.

It is a common idea that private property takes away community needs and places individual needs at a higher level. What would come about a communal way of living without private property is basically complete chaos. Although some form of communal living is good and necessary, the need for private property continues to be great as well. Private property allows man to take ownership of a land entitled to him and make it his responsibility to care for and thrive off of that land. “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence” [6]. In today’s society it’s all about giving is greater than receiving, but what people don’t realize is private property accomplishes this idea as well. Yes, there is no denial in the fact that communal property entails the good of all people and aids people in need. But, it is private property that allows man to function how he must in his private ways that allow him to live life every day how he does contributing to others, whether that be saving lives, feeding the hungry, or supporting others in less direct ways. For example, without a house to live in and sleep in a father could not provide shelter for his children. Likewise, without a car a doctor would not be able to provide for his patients in the quickest and best way possible because he could not get to where he needs to be. Private property is a foundation for opportunity and gives people a sense of comfort.

“Private property…is the means that assigns to the common man, in his capacity as a buyer, supremacy in all economic affairs. 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” [7].  This explains the complete necessity of private property as it relates to not only the good of the owner but the good of all people. If one were to not use his property to benefit others or to hinder the progress of others, then he would not be a true property owner.



Moreover, private property not only entails the owner to tend to their property, but it also sets the owner apart as an individual. “For, every man has by nature has the right to possess property as his own. This is one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation, for the brute has no power of self-direction, but is governed by two main instincts, which keep his powers on the alert, impel him to develop them in a fitting manner, and stimulate and determine him to action without any power of choice” [8]. Humans hold the ability to keep private property because of the ability to reason. A simple animal would not know how to own land or be able to comprehend the idea of private property. Let alone tend to his land or repair damages on a home. Humans are set apart and given the responsibility to tend to the land that was given to them by God.

As far as human capabilities go, the topic is vast. The abilities of humans have evolved over time and improved as well from year to year. Humans are no longer simple cave-dwellers, but have great minds that can think and reason and do good work with that reason. This is why they were given the job of holding land over other animals. But, while they have dominion that does not mean they do not share this land with the lesser animals who desire to live on the land. Likewise, they allow the lesser animals to live on the land in order to prosper and grow the land to its full potential in order to contribute to the common good for all people.

“And on this very account- that man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason- it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession; he must have not only things that perish in the use, but those also which, though they have been reduced into use, continue for further use in after time” [9]. It is ultimately the responsibility of the owner to continue the well-being and good maintenance of his property so that it may be sustained far beyond his dwelling there. This is also what sets man apart from the common animal, his ability to know what is good for his property and to see to it that it gets done. It is undeniably part of what makes people human as it allows them to fulfill functions that other animals cannot. Wayne Hage, a Rancher and Property Rights Activist, says, “If you don’t have the right to own and control property then you are property” [10]. Without the ability to own and manage property, what really sets humans apart from being just another animal?

[1] Private Property. “Private Property What Does That Mean?” The Petroglyph. (December 6, 2015).

[2] Sanders, Richard B. “Private Property Rights Defined.” American Policy. (December 4, 2015).

[3] “Liberty and Property.” Ludwig von Mises in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[4] “Rerum Novarum.” Pope Leo XIII in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[5] “Rerum Novarum.”

[6] Adams, John. “Private Property Rights Defined.” American Policy. (December 4, 2015).

[7] “Liberty and Property.”

[8] “Rerum Novarum.”

[9] “Rerum Novarum.”

[10] Hage, Wayne. “Private Property Rights Defined.” American Policy. (December 4, 2015).


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