The Morality of Ownership

Man, by his nature, is entirely dependent on property. He occupies time and space and must consume in order to live.

Two men cannot occupy the same space at the same time therefore they must respect each other’s natural boundary in order to coexist. This respect is the basis for morality.

Property is either owned or unowned. It can be improved, unimproved or even damaged.

Three conditions are necessary to make ownership possible:

  1. a recognized claim (before it can be claimed by someone it must first be valued by that person)
  2. a recognized boundary
  3. control (which comes with authority & responsibility)

A man’s property is merely an extension of his person as it is the product of his life energy. Property can also be acquired through trade or gift.

A moral person recognizes this fact and he respects the other man’s property.

When a man imposes his control on another man’s property, he is making the other man his slave to some degree, for he is seeking to substitute his control over the other man in place of the control that nature has provided the other man over himself.

Stolen property is not considered property of the possessor. It is considered plunder.

Owned yet unused land is a misnomer. All owned land is used for some purpose whether it be for preservative reasons, speculative reasons, or simply for the personal enjoyment of the owner.

The degree of prosperity in a given community is dependent upon the degree of moral understanding in that community.

Morality allows us to advance beyond having “the ability to protect” as the deciding factor for ownership because a moral person respects the boundaries of another person’s property – even when the owner is not there to protect it.

Human well-being is improved enormously when people recognize and respect the moral concept of ownership because we can focus our resources on production versus protection.

The more we can produce, the more value we can create and trade. This results in a higher standard of living for all.

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For further study:

Philosophy of Ownership – by Robert LeFevre

Boundaries of Order: Private Property as a Social System – Butler Schaffer

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