I FIRST THINGS
ONE: The Blessings of Property
FALL FROM GRACE
• Property’s fall from grace was gradual, beginning early in the 19th century.
• Arnold Tonybee saw no difference between public and private property.
• John Locke’s justification of private property-that people deserve to own what they labor to create-has been much scrutinized.• By the mid 1930’s, economic rights were no longer deserving of constitutional protection.
• Since World War II, almost all such texts have argued that a more rapid growth could be attained with state ownership than with private property.
• Adam Smith wrote the most influential treatises on political economy, private property was “sacred”, it was assumed “taken for granted, withoutinvestigation,” by the 19th century economists.
THE BLESSINGS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY
• FOUR great blessings that cannot easily be realized in a society that lacks the secure, decentralized, private ownership of goods. These are:
LIBERTY JUSTICE PEACE PROSPERITY
• The argument of this book is that private property is a necessary (but not a sufficient)condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.
• Milton Friedman> “You cannot have a free society without private property”
• Those who lived under the tyranny of Communism soon understood that without property rights, all other rights mean little or nothing.
• Private property is a compromise between our desire for unrestricted liberty and the recognition that others have similardesires and rights. It is a way to be free, and yet secure from the freedom of others.
• Privacy cannot be attained without an anterior respect of private property.
• The institution of private property also plays a key role in establishing social justice. The connection between them is: people experience the consequences of their own acts. Property set up fences, but it also surroundsus with mirrors, reflecting upon us the consequences of our own behavior.
• Property is the most peaceable of institutions. In a society of private property, goods must be either voluntarily exchanged or laboriously created. As long as such ownership is protected by the state, goods cannot easily be taken by force.
• Private property also allows a country to become rich enough to defenditself against aggressive neighbors.
• Prosperity and property are intimately connected. Exchange is the basic market activity, and when goods are not individually owned, they cannot easily be exchanged. Free-market economies, therefore, can only be built on private property.
THE LENS OF PROPERTY
• After the Soviets came to power, misleading economic statistics obscured the realresults of Communism. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the Soviet Union and its satellites was exaggerated by as much as a factor of ten.
• The welfare states of the Western world were built on the premise that property, particularly in its income form, was no longer sacred. It could be taken from some and given to others- to the advantage of all.
• Holland> taxes were set too high andthe country became uncompetitive.
• Vital to the prosperity-encouraging system was the great discovery of equality before the law.
• Richard A. Posner> economic efficiency was a surrogate for justice. Economic life is itself dependent on the legal regime.
PROPERTY AND PROGRESS
• Property’s eclipse coincided with the reign of the idea of progress. The connection between them:throughout history, most people have realistically been resigned to living in what might be called the Present Imperfect. After the French Revolution the Future Imperfect arouse and began to replace nostalgia of the past. The temporary imperfection of human nature was conceded. A greater human perfection was to be expected in the future; this laid the idea of PROGRESS.
• Private property was...