Property Is Theft is a famous phrase that was coined by P. J. Proudhon, a French politician that is considered by many theorists to be the father of anarchism. In general, the main idea promoted by this anarchist philosopher was as follows. Property is theft because the right of property does not correspond to nature and common sense. The current paper aims to shed light on the concept of property and its direct link to the anarchist philosophy of Proudhon. Moreover, much attention will be paid to the wider perspective that is associated with property and the opportunity of people to have the rights for it.
According to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the terms proprietor, robber, and hero should be used interchangeably because every proprietor is a robber. Moreover, Proudhon was a proponent of the following idea. Property is not only the right of people to use but also to abuse (Proudhon, 2010). While contrasting the right of property with many other basic rights of people, especially the right for liberty and security, Proudhon claimed the following thing. The rights of equality and liberty of rich people do not threaten the right, equality, and liberty of the poor. In other words, the rights of liberty and equality of the rich and the poor strengthen or, in other words, sustain each other (Proudhon, 2010).
On the contrary, the right of property of wealthy people threatens the proprietorship among the impoverished ones. The anarchist philosopher was a proponent of the following concept. The right of property contradicts with many other rights. Moreover, this theorist has stated that proprietorship is an amoral right that puts at risk equality among people and is a threat to the welfare of society in general (Proudhon, 2010). Overall, the French anarchist has assured that the right of property is a legal claim against the entire society that makes the poor ones suffer from its negative consequences. Property, as the researcher has stated, is one of the most serious constraints of equality among people. Proudhon has promoted the idea that it is a form of labor-made wealth that negatively impacts the growth and development of individuals (Proudhon, 2007). Finally, the theorist has assured in his first proposition that property is impossible mathematically as well as physically. The reason is that it requires something for nothing (Proudhon, 2007). His second proposition promotes the concept that ownership is impossible because its worth is larger than its production costs. Finally, Proudhon has compared property to the homicide that does not correspond to the principles of morality and justice (Proudhon, 2007).
Although the phrase coined by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon has gained a considerable popularity among other theorists, the expression property is theft has faced criticism (Spenser, 2013). Despite the fact that thefts always involve ownership of some people, many researchers absolutely disagree with this statement. The majority of researchers associate property as something, which belongs or, in other words, is owned by one person, several people, or even a legal entity (Spenser, 2013). During a relatively long period of time, the term property was directly linked to land. Thomas Aquinas, a prominent theologian and influential philosopher, has stated that private possession of property is tremendously important for society. The reason is that it positively influences social interactions among all members of community (Spenser, 2013).
Therefore, Thomas Aquinas has claimed that property is a natural phenomenon. The reason is that it is natural for humans to possess something. Thus, Proudhon’s position and attitudes towards ownership drastically differ from the estimation of Aquinas. The latter one has believed that it is natural and lawful for persons to own something. The act of possession turns them into social beings (Spenser, 2013). In addition, Thomas Aquinas has stressed that property is theft only when the ownership of its owners is taken secretly and illegally. It is important to emphasize that the researcher discusses the essence and nature of ownership from the point of view of theology. God created natural resources to make the lives of people more comfortable on the Earth; thus, humans should own something for personal benefits (Spenser, 2013). The role of property is tremendously important. It assists humans in maintaining peace and security in their societies. In case no division of things existed among people, quarrels and misunderstanding among different members of community would arise more frequently. Thus, Aquinas was the proponent of the idea that the benefits of private property had to outweigh the advantages of communal ownership. The reason is that private property bears the responsibility for the order in society and reduces conflicts and misunderstandings among people (Spenser, 2013). Regardless of the fact that the concept of private ownership has always faced numerous challenges, it is a natural phenomenon that provides tremendous benefits to community members. Aquinas has believed that private ownership and possessions have nothing in common with thefts. Property is the indicator of hard work that motivates people to be generous and offer a helping hand to other individuals (Spenser, 2013).
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Frederic Bastiat, a well-known liberal theorist and expert in the sphere of political economy, claims that ownership is a value (Braun & Blanco, 2011). Generally speaking, his property theory drastically differs from traditional ones. Those ones usually view ownership as a possession of a physical object (Braun & Blanco, 2011). On the contrary, Frederic Bastiat claims that property is closely intertwined with relationships among several individuals with respect to the certain thing. However, Frederick Bastiat shares the views of Thomas Aquinas. He has claimed that private property positively impacts the equality of mankind. Finally, the researcher has tried to convince his opponents that ownership will never totally disappear. The reason is that it is the inner nature of any human being to strive for a continuous progress and success (Braun & Blanco, 2011).
Hans-Hermann Hoppe (2006) who has investigated the essence, economics, and, finally, ethics of private property emphasizes the following fact. The absence of ownership may be compared to a fatal error that puts at risk healthy relationships among community members (Hoppe, 2006). The recognition of private property is essential. It ensures a unique opportunity to modern civilizations to avoid a serious catastrophe and chaos, avoid unnecessary misunderstandings among people, and prevent a possible financial crisis (Hoppe, 2006). The researcher suggests that the idea of the right of property is one of the most ancient, basic, and, finally, significant human rights. It ensures freedom to people and promotes a continuous development and progress (Hoppe, 2006). The recognition of ownership is vitally important because it ensures a chance to hard-working persons to be secure and retain the fruits of their persistent labor. In this case, the theorist views property as an effective tool or equipment that considerably increases the chances of people to achieve success in their lives (Hoppe, 2006). Therefore, it is estimated that ownership not only forces individuals to bear significant costs for their behavior and actions, but also provides a valuable incentive to conserve resources. The purpose is to be able to use them for the future production (Hoppe, 2006).
Although anarchists view property as something illegal, amoral, and unnatural, initial common ownership or, in other words, community ownership, has nothing in common with voluntary and liberty-respecting choices of individuals (Banning, 2002). According to the main ideas promoted by the proponents of the concept that property is theft, the world belongs to everyone. Due to this reason, very few individuals should not have an opportunity to be the owners of several pieces of the world. On the contrary, the opponents of this statement insist that the absence of private property is liberty-destroying (Banning, 2002).
Private ownership is not only one of the basic rights of humans, but also an effective problem-solver and efficient social tools. It ensures a unique chance to humanity to promote a stable development and continuous progress, achieve social peace, and increase economic efficiency that will definitely bring substantial benefits to society. History has justified the fact that private property is one of the most effective tools that serves people and balances their social interactions (Banning, 2002).
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Despite the optimistic views of anarchists that all individuals can live together in peace and security in order to avoid domination, common ownership and possession is ineffective. It is because of the lack of privacy, obstruction of progress of civilization, misunderstandings among persons, and many other factors. Many classical anarchist theorists associated property with theft, in the popular image. The concept of ownership is considered to be one of simple human rights that is no less important than the principles of life, liberty, and freedom (Banning, 2002).
Thus, after having shed light on the opinions of great philosophers and famous classical economists, it is possible to infer the following. The famous statement property is theft that is coined by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is criticized in literature. However, the majority of researchers agree that it is an essential right that boosts economic development, balances relationships among members of community, ensures a unique chance to avoid misunderstanding and quarrels among people, prevents chaos, and makes individuals more independent in their choices. Despite the fact that proprietorship and its nature still faces numerous controversies and debates, in the modern word, property is not the indicator of privileges or dominance. However, it is a basic human right that considerably increases consensus and healthy relationships in society.