The latest Libertarianism.org podcast features Christina and me talking with Trevor Burrus and Aaron Ross Powell about property rights and our new book Cornerstone of Liberty. You can listen, and get links and more info, here.
Private property is one of humanity’s great discoveries, like fire, or DNA, or the scientific method. Like fire, property has the ability to release a kind of unseen power from nature, to transform a desert waste into a luxurious resort like Las Vegas, for instance. Like DNA, property represents something deeply ingrained in human nature; no society has ever been found that did not have some concept of property. The universality of property suggests immediately that the concept is not just an arbitrary social creation. Instead, property is something common to all human beings as human beings—it doesn’t have to be taught to people, because it is natural.
Humans naturally develop a concept of “mine” in parallel with their development of self. Children discover the word “mine” very early on, and they seek to exclude others, even their own parents, from things they identify as theirs. Such early development suggests that the concept of “mine” is not initially taught to children, or absorbed by them from the surrounding culture, but expresses a natural human tendency. A child’s “awareness of his own property rights,” wrote Dr. Benjamin Spock, comes naturally “because it fits with his growing sense of self and assertion of self. Early in his second year he becomes conscious of the fact that his body is his.” Indeed, what children need to be taught is how to share, not how to believe in private property rights!