Private Property & Self-Determination

Private property is a rational necessity, not merely an accidental occurrence of human history. Owning property contributes to the ethical development of the individual. There is an undeniable link between private property and individual self assertion, mutual recognition of the rights of others, and the establishment of a proper sense of prudence and responsibility.

Institutions in society either benefit us, or don’t. Those that don’t, are immoral. Those that do, are moral. There may be differing opinions on the matter, but once those have been resolved, we must accept the morality of a beneficial institution.

The institution of private property is, without a doubt, a beneficial institution. The private ownership of the means of production has been the catalyst for economic progress throughout history. One needs only to look at the status of the individual in the 12th century, and compare it with that of the individual today. The profit motive, I would think, is undeniably the driving force of productivity in the developing world. When Andrew Carnegie bet his life and career on his mass production of steel, do you think his primary motive was to transform the New York skyline from a petty village to a towering metropolis? When the early oil pioneers in Pennsylvania invested fortunes to find oil, do you think their primary motive was to revolutionize the way Americans light and heat their homes? Or were both more interested in the great wealth they knew would come from their success?

We can easily imagine a world with and without property rights in which individuals do not have the right to use and dispose of things which they legitimately acquire, and those who do. When the former is the case, those nonowners are at the mercy of the state. Everyone would be the state’s tenant and employee. And while a similar condition exists in the world with property rights in a free market economy, the individual can choose who to work for, and who to live under. Now, think of a poor man with little admirable skills living in each. Which society would allow for greater self-determination if self-determination is the ability to make important decisions about one’s life?

I cannot think of a single example of a communitarian state that reached comparable and relative levels of development and prosperity.

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