"…And this is tyranny, which both by stealth
and by force takes away what belongs to others…" Plato(1)
All history is the re-telling of the relationship of the individual
to the collective. The most basic question one can ask about that
relationship is what belongs to the individual and what belongs to the group.
That theft is wrong has been argued by Plato (above), Moses in his eighth
commandment, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her dissent in
Kelo v New London 2005 among many others. What are the origins of property
in general and private property in particular? Where does the concept
of property come from? Four entities have, historically, been put forth as capable
of owning or controlling property; Elites, God, Individuals, and Society.
It is obvious that for any group of people living on the edge of survival,
meaning that they expend all of their physical and intellectual energy on the problem
of obtaining enough food, clothing, and protection from the elements and wild animals
in order to live another day, private property has no meaning. All must contribute
to this endeavor or all must perish. Certainly there were fights with competing hunters
over a kill, but no concept beyond survival guided their actions. The time from kill to
consumption of their kill was measured in hours.
Property can be owned or controlled. When these hunter-gathers began to develop
into farmers and ranchers they needed to plan for the future since seeds planted
today do not become edible for months or, in the case of fruit trees and farm animals,
for years. A way was required to protect crops and animals from thieves. Production
necessitated the idea of ownership. The concept born was private property;
the method of defending one's crops and animals was force. In the absence of a body of laws,
safety lay only in numbers. Hence the owners of this production were the group, tribe,
or family, i.e. the Collective.
Thus began a tortuous multi-thousand year march from collective ownership of property
toward the individual ownership of property.
(1)Plato's Republic Book 1 Collected Dialogues of Plato Princeton University Press 1961 translated by Paul Shorry
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