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Private Property

Of the different configurations of property rights, only private property provides a workable basis for a free society, a productive economy, and justice. In the 18th century and earlier, the single wordproperty was customarily used because it was understood intuitively that only private property provided the incentive to work hard. Treatises such as Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations did not specify that private property was the indispensable foundation of political economy because hardly anyone championed an alternative. Private property was “sacred” and, therefore, needed no intellectual defense. By the 19th century, however, and particularly in the Communist Manifesto (1848), the phrase private property began to be used pejoratively. Aristotle had defended it in passing, but the ...

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