chapter  17
29 Pages

The: Historical Evolution Of Property, In Fact And In Idea. 1

WithRichard A. Epstein

For purposes of social theory property is to be conceived in terms of the control of man over things. Man needs food to eat, implements to procure it, land to work upon, and for that matter to stand and move upon. In a developed society a man’s property is not merely something which he controls and enjoys, which he can make the basis of his labour and the scene of his ordered activities, but something whereby he can control another man and make it the basis of that man’s labour and the scene of activities ordered by himself. Property has sometimes been attacked on philosophical, sometimes on religious grounds. Property, it was clear to the thinkers who introduced this conception into ethics, was a human institution. The gifts of nature, the land and its fruits, must originally be free to all men; appropriation was the act of man, and the institutions by which appropriation is regulated derived from man-made laws.