Every idea has two sides. Many people just limit themselves to the side they agree with and ignore the side they disagree with. However, seeking true knowledge means looking at both sides, truly considering them, and understanding both of them completely. Don’t just ignore the things you disagree with. Learn about them and recognize both sides. Your opinion may change and develop as you seek the real truth, and that’s okay! It’s better to have a deep perspective than a shallow one. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Truth – real truth – is always worth stepping outside of your comfort zone to try something new. Don’t set goals to make all things agree with your opinions. Set goals to find truth – even if you have to change your opinions or find new ideas.
Here is an example of this with the pros and cons of property rights in society. If one side is right, it doesn’t necessarily mean the other side is wrong, and both sides together deepen the understanding about what property rights really mean.
Property Rights are Harmful to Society
Property or no property? That is the question that all societies must face at one time or another. This essay will argue that private property is harmful to an ordered society because it creates greed, selfishness, and competition in people instead of inspiring everyone to work together as the brothers and sisters they are.
The biggest problem with private property is that once a person has a taste of it, he always wants more, but he can never have enough. No thing produced by humans can ever be enough to completely satisfy an individual’s search for happiness. However, even if people know this deep down, it doesn’t show in their actions. A ‘propertarian’ society is full of individuals that have specific desires, and to satisfy these desires, they work and earn money to buy the things they want. These humans believe: “as soon as I get this one thing, then I’ll be happy”. Little do they realize that as soon as they satisfy that one desire, another desire springs up, and they don’t gain the happiness they expected to have when they were working towards the first desire. They stay under the delusion that as soon as they get ‘the next thing’ or ‘something bigger’, then they will be happy. That never happens, and they spend their lives chasing after a dream they cannot have. They want more, but they can never have everything, so they are unhappy.
In the futile search for happiness through private property, competition arises. What ‘the top’ is, no one knows, but everyone is rushing to reach it first. With private property rights, life becomes a race. Suddenly it’s not about helping everyone achieve happiness; it’s “Me first – I want to win and beat everyone else. It doesn’t matter what happens to the rest of the world as long as I am at the top. I can never stop. I must have new clothes, new shoes, new electronics. I must be making more money and have more things than everyone else.” Instead of inspiring brotherly love and kindness, private property inspires greed, causing people to take advantage of one another and even sometimes harm others to steal from them. Many people don’t do anything kind for anyone else unless they are paid for it because selfish gain has corrupted their hearts. Individuals start to make whatever decisions will make them the most money, regardless if it helps or harms other people. They must brag to everyone else about the successes they have made. Private property inspires selfishness and corrupts the individual.
When private property is allowed in society, it becomes the basis upon which society is organized. Suddenly everything revolves around how much property an individual has.
A person can only gain an education if he has property. He can only fulfill his natural needs if he has money and property. A person who has no property is looked down upon and ridiculed. Rich individuals see themselves as better than others if they have more property than a ‘lower’ person does. The scale of how ‘human’ a person is, is based upon how rich they are. No one ever thinks about others because they don’t need to think about others to move up in society. In fact, they must do the opposite – they must compete with others and tear their opponents down to be able to move up in society. Those who are at the top can bask in the selfish glory of having more than others have. A society where moving up consists of tearing others down, cannot do much good for the individuals trapped within it.
Private property rights inspire greed and selfishness in society instead of encouraging everyone to work together for everyone’s good. A society built on private property is a society built on greed, selfishness, and competition. Is that really what people want as the foundation for their society? One would think not. The puzzling question is why private property is still the basis of many societies.
Property Rights Are Beneficial to Society
There are many arguments against private property, but in reality, private property is the best system to work with human nature. Other systems would expect humans to be more perfect than they actually are, where private property works with human flaws to bring about good things with imperfect people.
If you don’t own something, you have less desire to take care of it. In my family, each person is assigned a day or two to make dinner every week. We all had our own days and Saturday being the extra day, it became “everyone’s dinner day”. Saturday was supposedly the day where we all helped each other do dinner. The result was that we never had dinner on Saturdays. After several weeks (and months) of often dinnerless Saturdays (when we blamed each other for not having made dinner), we finally came up with a better system and assigned Saturday to someone. Now dinner is ready every Saturday. That is the law of the commons. Private property will be taken care of in a much better manner than public property. There is more incentive to keep things nice and maintained if a person owns his own private property. If things belong to ‘everyone’, each person assumes someone else will take care of them. Thus, they never get done.
The expectation of reward or payment for services done, causes people to work hard and be efficient. Without a reward, or if everyone gets the same reward no matter how much work they do, causes complaint and jealousy. Without expectation of a reward, jobs are often poorly done. Of course, that is not an ideal motivation, but it’s the truth. It’s how humans work. Because humans are not perfect, they often need incentives to get them to do good things. Many people will do things of their own good will, but many others will not. Once humans have private property, they want more and more. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Humans act in their self-interest, which means they will always do what they think will be best for them. When private property is a part of society, everyone trades with others because it’s beneficial for themselves to do so. In this way, what is beneficial for one is also beneficial to all. Because humans aren’t perfect yet, private property is the best system to get things done and to live in peace and harmony.
Private property also sparks the desire for improvement. When private property is a system of society, everyone has a desire to improve upon what he already has. This leads to new inventions which are then sold and shared with the remainder of society. Society progresses in this manner. Private property leads to greater technology and useful inventions, which raises the standard of living of everyone, even the poor over time. When people don’t own things, they have less of a desire to improve upon what they have. Thus, their standard of living really doesn’t improve much.
Because humans aren’t perfect, private property works well with their sense of self interest and their desire for improvement. It’s necessary to realize that humans are flawed and even though they ideally should be a certain way, humans don’t always live up to those standards. Private property works with human flaws and helps everyone to get what they want.