Monday, August 26, 2019

Aristotle’s Defense of Private Property

Throughout history, numerous thinkers have robustly defended and justified the institution of private property: Cicero of ancient Rome, Thomas Aquinas of medieval Europe, and John Locke of the early modern period. The first extensive defense of private property comes from Aristotle in the fourth century B.C., and he believed there were more reasons than efficiency alone to endorse it.

Who was Aristotle?

Aristotle was a polymath who wrote extensively on ethics, logic, metaphysics, biology, astronomy, rhetoric, and more. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas referred to Aristotle as “The Philosopher,” demonstrating the level of respect Aristotle commanded. To this day, he is considered one of the most influential philosophers to ever live.

On the subject of private ownership, Aristotle believed external goods — such as property and wealth — could help people live a virtuous life. Unlike his teacher, Plato, who recommended strict limits on wealth, Aristotle argued that “happiness also requires external goods in addition, as we said; for it is impossible, or at least not easy, to play a noble part unless furnished with the necessary equipment.” This view is the foundation of Aristotle’s positive stance on private ownership.

Aristotle’s arguments in favor of private property have shaped debate on this topic throughout history. In his seminal work Politics, Aristotle argued against communal ownership of property by demonstrating the superiority of private property in four core areas: efficiency, unity, justice, and virtue.


According to Aristotle, private ownership is simply more efficient than communal ownership. The latter increases the likelihood of neglect. When people are sharing something, Aristotle claims, everyone is more likely to assume that someone else will take care of it instead of taking responsibility themselves.

As the economist Milton Friedman argued, we spend our own money most carefully and spend others’ money most liberally. Aristotle shared this stance, writing that “people pay most attention to what is their own; they care less for what is common.”

People have an incentive to be productive with what they are uniquely responsible for since they will benefit directly from their own efforts. On the other hand, communally owned property does not produce the same incentives because the fruits of your efforts are not solely your own.


Critics of private property tend to demean it as atomistic, claiming that its adoption creates a society of “rugged individualists” who refuse to cooperate with one another.

Aristotle sharply disagreed with this view, arguing instead that private property, in fact, fostered unity while communally owned property bred constant discord. On the subject of communal ownership, he wrote that “in general, living together and sharing in common in all human matters is difficult, and most of all these sorts of things.”

For Aristotle, justice constitutes being rewarded what you are worth, therefore unequal abilities result in unequal rewards.
Association is not a bad thing by any means, but having people share essential resources opens the door to potential conflict. As Aristotle put it, “It is a fact of common observation that those who own common property, and share in its management, are far more at variance with one another than those who have property separately.” In owning things for ourselves, we avoid the strife that arises from compromising over critical assets.


In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserts that justice is defined by equals getting equal rewards and unequals getting unequal rewards. When we apply this view to the notion of communally owned property, an issue arises. Aristotle explained it this way: “If people are not equal, they will not possess equal things, but from this comes fights and accusations… For everyone agrees that the just in distributions must be according to some worth; the worth however, everyone does not call the same thing.”

For Aristotle, justice constitutes being rewarded what you are worth, therefore unequal abilities result in unequal rewards. Aristotle considered this to be a benefit of the private property system in which people are rewarded whatever price they themselves can command.

He believed that in a system of communal ownership, problems are bound to arise where some people work more than others yet receive the same reward. This issue naturally causes discontent, but it is also unjust because it treats everyone equally to the detriment of those who dedicate more of their efforts.


Aristotle believed that using one’s property to aid friends was a great practice: “Doing favors and helping friends, guests or mates is most pleasant, and this only happens when property is private.”
If everyone communally owns everything, no one can give something of their own to someone else. Aristotle wrote of “generosity concerning possessions, for no one will be known to be generous or do generous actions since the work of generosity is in the use of one’s possessions.” In a system of communal ownership, it’s difficult to exhibit virtues of generosity, moderation, and charity. Each of these virtues depends on the fact of ownership, and what people decide to do with that ownership.

Coercion of communal property nullifies the individual’s possibility for virtue because it removes personal choice.
Private property, therefore, is not only an efficient mode of production as well as a unifying agent — it is also a vital tool for the cultivation of certain virtues.

One could argue that communal property can also be used for virtuous purposes, but this would be misleading. Virtue must be cultivated through free, uncoerced action. Aristotle begins book three of Nicomachean Ethics by saying that “since virtue is concerned with passions and actions, and on voluntary passions and actions praise and blame are bestowed, on those that are involuntary pardon, and sometimes also pity.” In this way, the coercion of communal property nullifies the individual’s possibility for virtue because it removes personal choice.

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. Using Aristotle as a guide, we can adopt a more humanistic approach to private property, thus acknowledging that private ownership is not only economically viable but also unifying, virtuous, and just.



To Fight Hate, Celebrate Capitalism

Jeffrey A. Tucker

I absolutely do not recommend that you read the blood-thirsty manifesto by the El Paso mass murderer, but, if you do, you will notice two main themes. First, he hates non-whites and wants them exterminated. Second, he despises commercial capitalism. That second point has not received much attention.

Now I must quote it:

"Consumer culture is creating thousands of tons of unnecessary plastic waste and electronic waste, and recycling to help slow this down is almost non-existent. Urban sprawl creates inefficient cities which unnecessarily destroys millions of acres of land. We even use god knows how many trees worth of paper towels just [to] wipe water off our hands. Everything I have seen and heard in my short life has led me to believe that the average American isn't willing to change their lifestyle, even if the changes only cause a slight inconvenience. The government is unwilling to tackle these issues beyond empty promises since they are owned by corporations. Corporations that also like immigration because more people means a bigger market for their products. I just want to say that I love the people of this country, but god damn most of y'all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources. If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable … I am against race mixing because it destroys genetic diversity and creates identity problems."

In American politics, there is this tendency to put people in either a right-wing or left-wing bucket. What can we say about a capitalist-hating white supremacist who thinks the solution to the environmental crisis is to slaughter people? There is a long tradition of eco-fascism (one of many species of radical Hegelianism) that doesn’t fit cleanly into either right or left; it is anti-liberal destructionism or straight-up exterminationism. It’s not the racism alone nor the environmentalism alone; it’s the combination. It is a toxic combination for any society that aspires to be free because it opposes freedom with blood-thirsty violence and the longing for totalitarian control.

David Brooks is also correct to describe this ideological view as anti-pluralism and anti-modern.

"These movements are reactions against the diversity, fluidity and interdependent nature of modern life. Antipluralists yearn for a return to clear borders, settled truths and stable identities. They kill for a fantasy, a world that shines in their imaginations but never existed in real life.

The struggle between pluralism and anti-pluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time, and it is being fought on every front.

We pluralists do not believe that human beings can be reduced to a single racial label. Each person is a symphony of identities. Our lives are rich because each of us contains multitudes.

Pluralists believe in integration, not separation. We treasure precisely the integration that sends the antipluralists into panic fits"

Note too that the killer chose a shopping district with a Walmart to undertake his murder spree. “It is not cowardly to pick low hanging fruit,” the killer wrote in giving advice to his fellow members of the white-supremacist caliphate. “Don't attack heavily guarded areas to fulfill your super soldier COD fantasy. Attack low security targets. Even though you might out gun a security guard or police man, they likely beat you in armor, training and numbers. Do not throw away your life on an unnecessarily dangerous target.”

Walmart was a target not only because it is low security; it also represented the thing he despised most, a thoroughly integrated environment where people from all walks of life cooperate in peace to their mutual advantage. Such commercial institutions are places where human dignity thrives. Walmart is the face of all the consumerism and corporate values of the market that he railed against in his screed. (They also sell a lot of the paper towels he so hates.)

This Walmart didn’t exist when I was growing up in El Paso, but this much I remember very well: it is through a vibrant commercial culture that this community coheres. As a border town with nonstop demographic evolution, the mix of language, religion, and ethnicity (for lack of a better term) might lend itself to tribalism and conflict. But through commercial institutions – through the very capitalism now denounced by extremists on the right and left – people come to understand each other, serve each other, and value each other.

Victor Rede, my best friend growing up, lived just across the street from me. His family origin traced to Mexico. I believe his father was an engineer at the military base. His mother was the most elegant woman who cared so deeply for her children (and me too!) and could cook like no one I had ever encountered. His world was very different from mine: different language roots, different religion, different ways of dealing with extended family and so on. Even the house decor was different from mine. I would stay over at his house and I recall staring at great length at the Aztec calendar above the fireplace, and wondering what it all meant.

I hadn’t known at the time but that friendship would have a profound effect on my life. It made me curious about other ways to think and live, new places to travel, new foods to eat, new discoveries to be made. What brought us together was geography but that is another way of saying commerce. His parents shopped for a house in a neighborhood with a good school, and it was my good fortune that he and his family landed just across the street from me.

The first time I met Victor, we were in line together at ice cream truck after school. We walked together after buying our treat and then discovered we were neighbors. Had it not been for that truck, the best friendship of my childhood might never had happened.

Victor is now a mighty chef and enormously successful. Growing up, he and I would work in the kitchen making cookies to bring to another neighbor, in hopes that this family would invite us to use their swimming pool because neither of us had one at our homes. It didn’t often work but the point is that together we learned the value of making things and serving others in our own interest. We thrilled in starting little businesses together (they always failed), building things, digging through the trash bins of the local malls to find treasures and reassembling them in silly ways. He taught me some Spanish and about family traditions about which I knew nothing previously. We loved shopping together and fantasized about our futures as creators and doing what each of us did well.

I’m guessing that Victor too knew that there was every reason in the world for us not to be friends, but the geographic proximity that commerce made possible meant that we never ran out of even better reasons to be friends. Commerce does this for people, every day, and every way, breaking down tribal barriers, helping us encounter traditions different from our own, giving us daily encounters with people to discover the dignity and humanity of people not like us.

This process of mutual encounters among different types of people is the ongoing work of the commercial marketplace, which is to say of capitalism. It grants us a daily reminder of the goodness of others, of their value in our lives, from all classes, races, religions, abilities, and languages. These are not forced encounters. They don’t happen because we are put together at the point of a gun, or intimidated to pretend to like people because we are being preached to by some civic-minded pietist. They happen naturally and normally out of our own interest in living a better life.

Look around your town where you live right now, and imagine it without commercial institutions: no coffee shops, no big-box stores, no grocery stores or restaurants, banks or anything else we associate with capitalism. Imagine that otherwise all your material needs are covered without them. What you end up with is a colorless world without human encounter besides kinship and other official events sponsored by public institutions. It would be dreadful. Unlovely. It could descend into hate. It could become dangerous.

The everyday human encounters of capitalism bring us into contact with a huge variety of people living pluralistic lives, and enhances human understanding. It incentivizes and rewards it. Here is the path for climbing out of the low-level existence of tribal identity into an enlightened world of mixture, integration, and prosperity.

And this is precisely why the hateful, the terrorists, and the totalitarians among us want to crush capitalism. They always have. It goes back centuries, really: ideologies of control and hate have targeted commercial life because of its best feature of breaking down tribes and substituting in its place an ever-evolving universal cooperation. The values capitalism promotes are the opposite of their nightmarish dreams. Which is why I say: if you want to fight hate, and protect life, celebrate capitalism and its main aspiration that everyone has the right to strive for a better life, and do so in peace.


The author above finds a capitalist-hating white supremacist hard to categorize. He is not.  He is a Nazi.  All the white supremacists have been Leftists -- e.g. the Ku Klux Klan


Obamas Buying $15 Million Mansion; Socialists AOC and Bernie Oddly Quiet

Someone needs to alert Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the socialists in this country that leftist fan-favorites Barack and Michelle Obama will soon have new digs. More importantly, because their new mansion in Martha's Vineyard costs a cool $15 million, those new digs are a vivid demonstration of the income disparity between the haves and the have-nots (the working class that just yesterday Bernie tweeted should win the class war).

TMZ is reporting that the Obamas fell in love with the mega-mansion after renting it for the summer and "the estate is now in escrow." Describing the former president and first lady's luxurious new house, pending the finalizing of the sale, TMZ says:

"The estate - incredible. It's 29 beachfront acres. The main residence is just shy of 6,900 square feet. It has 7 bedrooms, so Sasha and Malia have a place to crash, along with several of their friends. It has the obligatory pool, an outdoor fireplace, a chef's kitchen, vaulted ceilings and 2 guest wings. It has incredible views, especially while soaking in the second-floor balcony Jacuzzi. The beachfront is private .. and comes with a boathouse.

Outside the main house, there's 29 beachfront acres, a pool, chef's kitchen, outdoor fireplace & 2 guest wings

TMZ does point out: "Downside - only a 2-car garage."

However will the Obamas cope with only a two-car garage? With 29 acres, I'm sure that they can find a spot to build a bigger garage if they want. In the meantime, Comrade Bernie Sanders will no doubt be more than happy to store any of their extra cars at one of his three houses. If he does offer to do that, at least the Obamas will have some cars to drive if the race war that Bernie is attempting to foment does happen. I mean, $15 million mega-mansions on Martha's Vineyard will be near the front of the line of things to be redistributed. Dictator Bernie's houses, though, will be safe from plunder.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the Obamas buying the house. But, as my slightly tongue-in-cheek tone reveals (note the emphasis on "slightly"), my problem with it is the explicit hypocrisy it reveals among leftists. One day, a senator who is in the thick of the Democrats' choosing of their 2020 presidential nomination is tweeting favorably about class warfare. The next, a nearly sainted couple in the eyes of the left is reported to be buying a house that even some of the "evil" one percent can't afford. Is income inequality a problem or not, leftists? If it is, AOC, Bernie, and everyone else who has ever bemoaned income inequality or spoken unfavorably of the one percent should be demanding that the Obamas redistribute their wealth and live in a zero-carbon emissions tiny house.

Next time, instead of Occupying Wall Street, leftists who are angry at the wealthy should occupy the Obamas' new beachfront house.


My objection is that a lot of decent working people have had the taxes ripped off them that enabled these parasites to buy  their new house.  The Obamas would be nothing without the political convenience of their skin color.  They didn't build that


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

O'Bombers buy $15,000,000 Cape Cod beach front mansion.

Obama: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money”

YOU, not him.