A World Without Private Property
Socialism can be most succinctly defined as a world without private property. Private property is seen by socialists as a barrier between human beings that keeps people from cooperating with one another, and that feeds their selfishness and egotism. In the reductivist socialist worldview, all phenomena of the world, including human behavior, can be extrapolated from material conditions. In a world of perfect material equality, so socialist thinking goes, there would be peace and harmony among men.
Yet there is a fatal flaw in this worldview. The desire of the individual for self-expression manifests itself in the need for property as an extension of self; either in terms of the reification (or realization) of a person’s labor, which is the concrete encapsulation of creativity, time, and a human being’s very life; or in terms of a person’s desire for security from the mob or the state.
To deny private property, in a sense, is to obliterate the word “mine,” from the lexicon of humanity; not to be replaced by the word “ours,” the superficial antithesis of “mine”; but rather both terms are stricken from man’s vocabulary because his conceptualization of property is erased through the removal of the referents, replaced by a state of non-comprehension of the nature of the self and the limits of material reality. The self does not develop through the process of a man interacting with his environment; in fact, the sacramentalization of the environment implies the destruction of individualization.
The removal of property from the private sphere and displacement into the public arena or into the growing abyss of “the environment” (a step further removed in the direction of the state’s absolute control of natural resources) is the underlying cause of the ancient (i.e. non-Marxist) version of the “tragedy of the commons.” The phenomenon of the deterioration of “public goods” was later refined by Luis Molina of The School of Salamanca, who noted that individuals care for their own property better than that of property held in common. The tragedy of the commons can be seen in any inner city ghetto, which is non-coincidentally, any place that modern liberals have prolonged power.
This examination of the insidious effects of the obliteration of private property can be further informed by deconstruction of Pierre Joseph Proudhon‘s famous maxim in What is Property? (1840) of “Property is theft.” But in a world without property rights, there can be no theft. There is no moral-legal structure of economic order, there is only a world with no legal barriers to prevent victimization, not only by other human beings, but by the state itself. But wouldn’t this be an exact reversal of the Enlightenment project, which began with Thomas Hobbes‘ Leviathan and was developed into its mature form in the philosophy of John Locke?
There may be those who intuitively disagree with this narrative, and believe that I am constructing a straw man; that no modern liberal is so radical as to support the obliteration of private property, and that what is really proponed by the Democrats in power is a “mixed economy”; that is, a combination of the best parts of capitalism and socialism, experimented with until the best of both worlds is constructed.
But this point of view belies an ignorance or disingenuous exposition of the real-world implementation of the philosophy of Marx. The method of socialist corruption of the economy is “dialectical materialism,” which means that, following Fichte and informally Marx’s teacher Hegel, “the development of the thesis into the antithesis, which is sublated by the synthesis.” What does this mean essentially? It means from a Hegelian point of view that history is a process of change and transformation, which may be practically adapted, in the Marxist-Leninist and the neomarxist point of view, as the destruction of the capitalist system through the introduction of elements of its antithesis.
If the American people take for granted that the hallmark of “capitalism,” a term coined by Marx, is simply the presence of capital, or currency, then this leaves the state free to corrupt other elements of the economy. The master stroke for the socialists was John Maynard Keynes‘ development of a “general theory” of economics, that supported the incremental erosion of the purchasing power of the currency through inflation. Here is the secret engine of destruction at the heart of the “Fabian socialist” strategy, as John Maynard Keynes alludes to in an essay:
“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. […]
Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
Thus we see the hidden motive of Keynesianism: To debauch the currency and to bring chaos and disorder to the economic system of “capitalism”; while a new order is created and oriented towards statist ends. And one can ask any government bureaucrat, Keynes is almost universally revered in the government and in the civil service. The difference between the Bolshevik and the Fabian Socialist is a matter of speed, not ends.
So how can the Democrats, and even some Republicans, get away with disguising their statist agenda, which is cloaked either in social welfare or military Keynesianism, respectively? Statist politicians are given cover in the American political system two ways. First of all, the legislative branch is founded on deliberation and compromise. This means that the foundation of the capitalist economy, individual rights and private property, can be compromised away by the two parties through the dialectics of discourse. This is the reason that we Americans constantly hear about “bipartisanship” and “democracy,” but only if it fits the statist agenda.
Second, being that the foundation of America is assumed to be “capitalist,” the ghosts of the free market system that are the dollar bills we hold in our hands persist long after the market system has been incrementally and systematically corrupted through the institution of fiat currency. One might even say that our Hegelian historical moment of truth has passed, and that the logical implication of the establishment of fiat currency is that we work at the behest of the state, our labor given in debt to the labor of others. Philosophically, this is the destruction of individual rights through the undermining of private property, which is measured in a “capitalist” system in capital. If the state owns the capital that we exchange, then we are effectively at the mercy of the state. Taxes are not the confiscation of property, but the state’s collection of notes of legal tender that it dispersed at an earlier point in time for the benefit of the “public good.”
If we can imagine for a moment, with our radical compatriots, what a world without private property would look like, one where unlimited democracy reigns, and one where the means of production are at the disposal of the proletariat, what would this world look like? Hypothetically, say that one wanted a new vehicle for the transport of one’s family to visit a relative, would the collective see the need to manufacture a vehicle, simply because one desired to visit a family member? Or more to the fancy of collectivists’ presuppositions, what if the commune’s vehicle was being used by someone else, and it was a family emergency for one of the group’s members? That person is simply out of luck, and possibly brandished as selfish if he makes demands on the commune for the use of a public resource.
It gets much worse if we explore the assumption of a world without private property further. Inevitably, demands on public resources skyrocket, the government is forced to ration goods and services, including the provision of healthcare, and social entropy ensues. People become morally corrupted, and tend to engage in selfish behavior such as pilfering public resources for oneself, which can hardly be considered stealing given the collectivists’ own supposed “philosophy.”
But the proposition of a world without private property is not something that has been contemplated fully by the radical left, as I know from experience debating its members. The culmination of the destruction of the capitalist system results not in utopia but in the “Then what?” question. On the contrary, the founding fathers fully contemplated a world without private property, drawing on the works of men like Aristotle, and informed by the testimony of its disaster by men like William Bradford. Such true philosophical and rational exploration of the issue led John Adams to conclude:
“Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors. Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of every thing be demanded, and voted. What would be the consequence of this? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them. The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”
And are not anarchy and tyranny commencing?
When private property is abolished, or debauched, or otherwise controlled by the state, whether the regime is supposedly “democratic” or not, men are not liberated, but rather, men become the captives of others. Society thus becomes animated by coercion borne of boundless entitlement.
And is this not the definition of slavery?