FEE – Aristotle’s arguments on property are still relevant today. Many free-marketeers have forgotten that there are more benefits of private property than mere economic efficiency.
In “The Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx aptly summarized the implications of a communist society, stating that “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” As an institution, private property has been a crucial factor in the flourishing of Western society and its political thought. However, its defense rarely extends beyond a calculation of its economic benefits. Many defenders of private property simply state that there is no viable alternative system and that private property is simply the best option of a bad bunch. This argument, with its pessimistic tone, hardly inspires much love for the concept of private ownership.
Thankfully, there have been numerous thinkers throughout history who have robustly defended and justified the institution of private property. Such figures are Cicero of Ancient Rome, Thomas Aquinas of medieval Europe, and John Locke of the early modern period.
Who Was Aristotle?
The first extensive defense of private property comes from Aristotle, writing in the 4th century B.C. in response to the idea of communal ownership as espoused by his teacher Plato. Aristotle was a polymath who wrote extensively on ethics, logic, metaphysics, biology, astronomy, and rhetoric, to name a few of his interests. To this day, he is considered one of the most influential philosophers to ever live. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas referred to Aristotle as “The Philosopher,” demonstrating the immense level of respect Aristotle commanded.
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Click here to read: Why wealth creation (and private property and property rights) is good for the planet.