Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Menger on Property

This post is part of a series exploring Principles of Economics by Carl Menger.  The following explores content from chapter 2.

Previously in this series: Menger on Economizing

We do not live in paradise. There is always scarcity: requirements in society always exceed available quantities. Therefore there will always be individuals whose requirements are not met; and according to variant circumstances, there will always be varying degrees of to which the requirements of different individuals are met. Men in these conditions of scarcity, according to natural self-interest, will have opposing interests, as the means of meeting their requirements will often be under the control of others. These opposing interests can lead to violent conflicts. A society cannot survive without mores which protect people regarding their possessions, in other words, without property.

Since property is a necessary condition for society, it cannot be abolished without destroying the society. For example, even in a communist society, whichever cadre establishes the rules for the communal use of a good thereby has command of it, and to the degree that it holds the exclusive right to establish those rules, holds it as its property (however wrongly held it may be). Also individuals in a communistic society hold their rations of consumer's goods (food, clothes, etc) as property to the degree that the state does not allow other individuals to snatch those rations.

This seems to be a theory of effective property, and not one of rightful property, which, as I believe is irrespective of societal mores, and depends instead on individual natural morality.

Next in this series: Menger on Economic vs. Non-Economic Goods

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