On Property Rights

This one’s just too good not to bookmark.  Expounderate if you feel like it.  I’m sure I’ll come back to it at some point.

There are some thoughtful people out there who buy into just a little Marx when they talk about dispossession — the idea that only the currently rich can ever be wealthy because they own 85% of the means of production – the property.  The real estate.  The machinery.

But it turns out that that’s not where wealth really comes from.   Oh, sure, starting out with a good dollop of it helps, but it’s no guarantee.  Where wealth really comes from is … honest labor.  Ideas, and their implementation.

I “own” a 40×100′ lot with a very modest home (by today’s standards) on it. And I got it, not because I conquered it or was given it, but because I’ve worked for it.  Technically, I’m still working for it.

And here’s the crux of it… here’s the quote that I wanted to leave — from Thomas G. West’s “Vindicating the Founders”:

Government protects property, not because the current pattern of wealth and poverty is just, but because security of property is a promise to the industrious and talented that they will be able to keep what they earn.

That’s the money quote right there, but he goes on:

The future security of the fruits of labor, together with the minuscule value of inanimate nature, guarantees that future wealth will correspond roughly to the talents and efforts of those who work, not from the land and property they inherit from their fathers.

That’s really it in a nutshell.  Those who own property but hide their talent, so to speak, will eventually lose their property (and probably their talent) to those who employ their efforts and talents.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft on a billion acres of land, or with a giant factory he inherited.

Wealth does not come from property.   Wealth comes from labor and ingenuity, and property is a reflection of accumulation of wealth.

The whole Matthew 25 is instructive … but I always have to giggle a bit when I get to verses 31-33 🙂

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