Is private property a good thing? I happen to think it is. Have you ever noticed how public beaches are always disgusting? No one takes pride of ownership. I’ve heard people say after throwing some trash around, “that’s why we pay taxes.”
Since at least Biblical times there’s been a tension in history between communitarian-ism and private ownership. People have written songs and novels about this tension. People have gotten into university debates and great wars over this tension.
We bemoan the loss of Indian hunting grounds even as we sit in our comfortable highrises or suburban ranches. We feel vaguely guilty because that’s what we’re told to do. Yet a study of the Iroquois nation quickly reveals that their dominance of a vast territory of the US and Canada came at the expense of other weaker tribes. They didn’t just sit around being peaceful. They were into conquest. It didn’t matter if some tribes were all about sharing.
We can say it’s primitive not to share, but the tragic thing about history is that, search as we may for a progressive walk towards enlightenment, it’s always just out of reach. I’m not celebrating “might makes right,” just pointing out that despite lofty ideals everywhere in the world the human tendency is towards this behavior. No matter the style of government or organization or friendship, might often makes right.
I lived with American communists for a while. They worked their “interns” (indentured servants) like dogs for the good of the community and the ecology. They had the land and the power to make our lives miserable. They made sure they had a voice on the local radio station and in the town council. They preached peace and love, but might makes right pushed their interns and neighbors.
Once we see this tendency to push each other around we then can see that it’s not them over there or us over here. We can stop expecting our governments to present us with good new schemes to cover our moral failures. The reason why private property is important is because without it we’re at the whim of people who could care less about us and use their might to do whatever they want. Private property gives us a stake in the game. (This doesn’t for a second mean there are perfect systems on Earth)
We can be charitable or not based on the knowledge that what Jesus said about the poor always being with us is true and no amount of second-rate political thought is going to change that. Some people are always going to be stronger, smarter and more evil than others no matter how well we institute Common Core or apologize for winning wars.
Private property means I get to keep my mind as well as my responsibility. With that I must answer to a higher power.