Murray Rothbard: Aristotle on Private Property and MoneySubmitted by dwalters on Sun, 01/20/2013 - 06:16
From Mises.org -
An excerpt from Aristotle on Private Property and Money by Murry Rothbard
The views of the great philosopher Aristotle are particularly important because the entire structure of his thought had an enormous and even dominant influence on the economic and social thought of the high and late Middle Ages, which considered itself Aristotelian.
Although Aristotle, in the Greek tradition, scorned moneymaking and was scarcely a partisan of laissez-faire, he set forth a trenchant argument in favor of private property. Perhaps influenced by the private-property arguments of Democritus, Aristotle delivered a cogent attack on the communism of the ruling class called for by Plato. He denounced Plato's goal of the perfect unity of the state through communism by pointing out that such extreme unity runs against the diversity of mankind, and against the reciprocal advantage that everyone reaps through market exchange. Aristotle then delivered a point-by-point contrast of private as against communal property. First, private property is more highly productive and will therefore lead to progress. Goods owned in common by a large number of people will receive little attention, since people will mainly consult their own self-interest and will neglect all duty they can fob off on to others. In contrast, people will devote the greatest interest and care to their own property.
Second, one of Plato's arguments for communal property is that it is conducive to social peace, since no one will be envious of, or try to grab the property of, another. Aristotle retorted that communal property would lead to continuing and intense conflict, since each will complain that he has worked harder and obtained less than others who have done little and taken more from the common store. Furthermore, not all crimes or revolutions, declared Aristotle, are powered by economic motives. As Aristotle trenchantly put it, "men do not become tyrants in order that they may not suffer cold."
Third, private property is clearly implanted in man's nature: His love of self, of money, and of property, are tied together in a natural love of exclusive ownership. Fourth, Aristotle, a great observer of past and present, pointed out that private property had existed always and everywhere. To impose communal property on society would be to disregard the record of human experience, and to leap into the new and untried. Abolishing private property would probably create more problems than it would solve.
Finally, Aristotle wove together his economic and moral theories by providing the brilliant insight that only private property furnishes people with the opportunity to act morally, e.g. to practice the virtues of benevolence and philanthropy. The compulsion of communal property would destroy that opportunity.