All Commentary
Friday, June 1, 1984

A Page on Freedom: Number 7

Private Ownership

The attributes of individual responsibility, initiative and respect for others are not basic conditions of our nature but, instead, are characteristics which will evolve wherever private property concepts have been established.

When a legal system is structured to safeguard the private ownership of property and there prevails a set of values based on the sovereign rights of individuals, a market economy inevitably results.

This market process reflects both voluntarism and social cooperation in human affairs. It is the course of conduct followed by individuals with a right to possess property and the confidence that their transactions will be respected.

Choice in the use of one’s labor and the products of such labor is not an end in itself. Nor is such freedom of choice an ideological issue to be accepted or rejected by mere whim or fancy. Private property rights are a fundamental and necessary condition if people are to be prosperous and free.

Private ownership induces an attitude of stewardship. Responsibility for self, as well as respect for property, caring for property, and the further creation of property, are all vital aspects of private ownership.

Most important of all, however, is the proprietary characteristic which follows from control over property. For without private ownership of property, individual freedom of choice can have no meaning. Ownership establishes control, and it is from the power of such self-control that comes the sovereignty and dignity of the individual.

Without private ownership, freedom is hollow and meaningless. []

Robert G. Anderson


  • Robert G. Anderson taught economics and business management at Grove City College, Pennsylvania, and served as Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Economic Education in the 1970s.