All Commentary
Saturday, July 1, 1972

Ownership: Free but Not Cheap

Mr. North is a member of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education. This article will appear as a chapter of his forthcoming book, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press).

Ownership of the means of production is not a privilege, but a social liability. Capitalists and landowners are compelled to employ their property for the best possible satisfaction of the consumers. If they are slow and inept in the performance of their duties, they are penalized by losses. If they do not learn the lesson and do not reform their conduct of affairs, they lose their wealth. No investment is safe forever. He who does not use his property in serving the consumers in the most efficient way is doomed to failure. There is no room left for people who would like to enjoy their fortunes in idleness and thoughtlessness.


There is no more fundamental question in the field of political economy than that of the ownership of property. Marx, no less than Adam Smith, saw this clearly. Invariably, the question of ownership must raise the question of sovereignty. It also raises the knotty question of stewardship. The roots of Western Civilization extend back to the Hebrews. The message of the law and the prophets of the Old Testament returned again and again to the issue of ultimate sovereignty. The message was clear enough: God is sovereign, and not men, nor any human institution. All earthly, human sovereignty is therefore derivative and limited.

The advent of rationalist and outright anti-Christian philosophies shifted the language of the sovereignty issue, but not the difficulties. If God were removed from the day-to-day operation of the universe, then sovereignty would have to be found elsewhere. Eighteenth-century rationalists —from Adam Smith to Jean Jacques Rousseau, from the Physiocrats to the Jacobins — attempted to discover where sovereignty lies, in principle, in human affairs, and their answers concerning the abstract locus of sovereignty determined the kind of society they hoped to attain through the use of political action.2 Obviously, they arrived at very different answers.

It is possible, of course, to imagine full sovereignty apart from organized institutions possessing the right of legal compulsion. Sovereignty might be claimed strictly on the basis of conscience: voluntary tithing to a church, for example, or voluntary taxation by the state (as some market advocates have argued). As a rule, however, where we find any institution which claims sovereignty and receives support from a majority of the citizenry, we also find compulsion. In the United States, the classic example is the shift in sovereignty from the state-established religious denominations that once received tax funds to support their operations to the government educational institutions. The public schools became the institutionalized churches of the local communties, and recent court decisions indicate that they are about to become national churches.3 Those who officially denied that church and state ought to be linked, in most cases simply substituted a new priesthood for the older one, i.e., the one which no longer could convince a majority of citizens of its claims of sovereignty.4

In modern, industrialized nations, the conflict over sovereignty is between the state and the market. In the Soviet Union, and presumably in the other iron curtain countries, the conflict is four-way: national state, planning region, market, and Communist Party.5 As Ludwig von Mises puts it, the control of scarce economic resources can be handled in two ways: profit management or bureaucratic management.6 Both are legitimate in their own spheres, but in the modern economy, statist bureaucratic management seems to be triumphant everywhere we look.7

Our universe operates in terms of the fact of economic scarcity. At zero price, there is greater demand for than supply of economic goods and services. (If there is an equality of demand and supply, or an excess of supply, the goods are not economic goods, and therefore they are not objects of human action.8) Those who possess skills or resources that are desired by the public at a price greater than zero must, by definition, act as stewards for those who are willing and able to purchase these desired products. No matter how secure his legal title to ownership, each owner must face the economic responsibilities of stewardship. This, in fact, is one of the miracles of market arrangements. The requirements of the many, considered as a collective unit, are met by the activities of individual men and women. The philosophical problem of the one and the many, which transforms itself into the problem of the collective and the individual, is answered in the realm of economics by the operation of the market. The fact that few men take the market seriously is indicative of the collapse of philosophical inquiry into this crucial intellectual problem over the last century.9

The Mixed-up Economy

The so-called “mixed economy” is one of the means by which men attempt to avoid the implications of the market’s solution. “We are neither socialists nor capitalists” is a rallying cry for contemporary economists, theologians, and “practical” businessmen. These people think that they are saying some thing quite profound and very modern when they promote such a slogan. What they are saying is in reality quite muddled — the product of a lack of serious thought. To say that you favor neither full collectivization nor full economic anarchy is not saying anything at all. No one in a position of political authority advocates full collectivization, as the survival of the Liberman reforms and the private farm plots in the Soviet Union ought to indicate. Pure anarchism, while it may find more vocal and intelligent advocates than pure collectivism, has always been a tiny intellectual stream in human history. So the “neither socialist nor capitalist” slogan is not relevant as a philosophically unique statement. Mises, as usual, has seen the emptiness of such slogans, and he calls our attention to the crucial contribution the market makes in solving the problem of stewardship:

All attempts to abolish by a compromise the contrast between common property and private ownership in the means of production are therefore mistaken. Ownership is always where the power to dispose resides. Therefore State Socialism and planned economies, which want to maintain private property in name and in law, but in fact, because they subordinate the power of disposing to State orders, want to socialize property, are socialist systems in the full sense. Private property exists only where the individual can deal with his private ownership in the means of production in the way he considers most advantageous. That in doing so he serves other members of society, because in the society based on division of labour everyone is the servant of all and all the masters of each, in no way alters the fact that he himself looks for the way in which he can best perform this service.¹º

Mixed economies do not stand still. They do not allocate resources and tasks according to permanent, fixed definitions. The mixed economy is a battleground for competing ideologies; without solid, concrete definitions of sphere sovereignty — rules that specifically limit, in principle, the operations of bureaucratic management and profit management —the idea of the mixed economy will remain an intellectual monstrosity and, in practice, a very poor means of getting things accomplished.

It is not possible to compromise, either, by putting part of the means of production at the disposal of society and leaving the remainder to individuals. Such systems simply stand unconnected, side by side, and operate fully only within the space they occupy. Such mixture of the social principles of organization must be considered senseless by everyone. No one can believe that the principle which he holds to be right should not be carried through to the end. Nor can anyone assert that one or the other of the systems proves the better only for certain groups of the means of production. Where people seem to be asserting this, they are really asserting that we must demand the one system at least for a group of the means of production or that it should be given at most for a group. Compromise is always only a momentary lull in the fight between the two principles, not the result of a logical thinking-out of the problem. Regarded from the stand-point of each side, half-measures are a temporary halt on the way to complete success.¹¹

Serving Others

Is it really true that the market, as an impersonal mechanism, pressures individual citizens, in their role as economic actors, to satisfy the needs of their fellows? A brief analysis should help to answer this question in the affirmative. Consider the occupation of the farmer. He owns land and tools. He possesses skills and specialized knowledge. The more productive he is, the more specialized his labor and, presumably, his tools. These assets constitute his capital. The very fact of his legal ownership brings the problem of cost into the forefront: how much does it cost him to own his assets? The doctrine of alternative costs tells us that he must forfeit the use of all those economic goods and services that he could purchase if he were to sell or lease his capital (including his human capital). He has chosen to remain the owner of these particular assets, but he must forfeit all those assets that are lower on his scale of values, but that might be purchased if he divested himself of the ownership of his present scarce economic resources.

There is only one way in which his legal ownership, and therefore control, of these scarce economic resources would cost him nothing. If he has absolutely no other desires than to be exactly what he is, where he is, controlling just these economic resources and no others. This is the ultimate goal of economic perfection toward which men strive, of course, but it does not describe the conditions of real, acting men. But it is only under this assumption, that a man has no other alternative uses for his capital or the assets that could be gained in voluntary exchange, that zero opportunity costs would prevail. So long as men have unfulfilled desires for additional scarce economic resources, they will bear the burdens of opportunity costs. They must choose one goal or set of goals and not another; they must select the appropriate means of achieving their economic goals; they must exercise responsible choice.

“Every man has his price.” Most of us believe this to be valid as a regulatory principle, despite the fact that we know that on some points in time, some men could not be compelled by the whip or induced by the carrot to respond to the desires of other men. Men are always trying to improve the economic conditions. This means that they must bear the costs of change in a world of limited resources. Even a decision to remain inactive is a decision: one forfeits the benefits that change would have brought. In short, there is always a trade-off in economic choosing, even in decisions not to trade at all.

Ownership, a Social Function

Any resource — human, animal, inanimate — which can command a price imposes costs on its owner. Each individual must use the resources under his authority in order to serve others, either through the mechanism of the market or the coercive power of the state. To the extent that the market is allowed to function as the sovereign authority over economic transactions, individual owners must attempt to meet the demands of other possessors of scarce economic resources, as registered on the market in terms of discrete prices. Hence, total human autonomy is inconceivable. Those who argue that the market involves anarchy are unaware of how the market operates. Economic actors must meet the demands of the public if they are to survive. The farmer in our original example is required to use his land, tools, brains, and skills more effectively than do his competitors. If he obstinately or ignorantly refuses to do this, he will lose control over his resources. Under the market economy, a man holds his goods as a steward for other men; he cannot hold his goods autonomously. Under the free market, ownership is a social function.

The meaning of private property in the market society is radically different from what it is under a system of each household’s autarky. Where each household is economically self-sufficient, the privately owned means of production exclusively serve the proprietor. He alone reaps all the benefits derived from their employment. In the market society the proprietors of capital and land can enjoy their property only by employing it for the satisfaction of other people’s wants. They must serve the consumers in order to have any advantage from what is their own. The very fact that they own means of production forces them to submit to the wishes of the public. Ownership is an asset only for those who know how to employ it in the best possible way for the benefit of the consumers. It is a social function.¹²

Is this a denial of the free ownership of private property? Absolutely not; it is the necessary concomitant of such ownership. It is therefore a denial of the gratuitous ownership of property. Nothing is free from costs under a market economy — not lunches, not talents, not even dreams, for dreams must use up that highly valuable and irreplaceable scarce economic resource: time.

Opportunity Costs

Men, in their decision to compete for access to some particular resource, bid up its price. By bidding up the price of an economic good, they impose higher and higher costs of ownership on all those who hold legal, exclusive titles to the good. These costs come in the form of opportunity costs. Since the scarce economic resource is now more valuable in the opinion of the public, it commands a higher price, and therefore the value of the resources that the owner could gain access to by selling his title of exclusive control to someone else is continually increased. He pays a price, moment by moment, for his refusal to part with his property; if he retains title to one piece of property, he is thereby prevented from gaining access to other goods and services that his property could be exchanged for. If something commands a price, it is not gratuitously possessed. Free ownership may command very heavy costs. It is the right of free, exclusive control over property which makes the economic burden inescapable; the free market imposes responsibility with every grant of economic power.

The farmer who does not wish to sell his land, whether for sentimental reasons, or a fear of change, or a commitment to the ideals of rural life, or just to keep old Charlie Drackett from getting his dirty hands on the bottom forty, is thereby compelled to pay for his use of that land. He has to defend his possession of exclusive control, daily, in the market place. It is not his legal title that is in question; it is his economic ability to defend it against others who think they could use his property in order to better service the needs of the public. He does not have to defend it in the way his great-grandfather did — shooting Indians or revenuers or Hatfields or McCoys — but by using it to satisfy the incessant demands of an unsentimental public. If he fails to do this, he suffers economic losses. He may have to dip into his life savings to keep his farm going. He may have to go deeper into debt. Finally, if he continues to fail to meet the public’s demands for more food, cheaper food, better quality food (or even lower quality food, nutritionally, if that is what the public wants), his mortgage will be foreclosed. The bank will sell it, or the tax collector will sell it, to the highest bidder. This highest bidder is a middleman. He is acting on behalf of the public. He thinks he can use the land and other capital assets more efficiently than anyone else can. If he is wrong, the process will start over again. Private property is held in stewardship for the public.

Title to property is not held by “the public.” Titles are held by individual owners. But the market combines the myriad of discrete demands of many individuals and imposes costs on the possessors of all desired economic resources. No owner can resist the pressure of market demand without bearing these costs. Day after day, market pressures force all owners to ask themselves, “What’s it worth to me to hold onto this?” The public responds, through the market, “You’ll have to meet our price if you want to keep it.” Day after day, all those who retain free title to a particular piece of property meet this price. They pay in the forfeited opportunities that might have been: the vacation, the new car, the shares of IBM, and silence from “the little woman” who wants to sell out. This is the law of survival in the free market. May the best (most efficient) man win.

Ownership Contingent on Right Use

During the English Reformation the problem of the justification of ownership came to a head with the confiscation of the property of the monasteries. “The Reformation theorists,” writes Richard Schlatter, “failed to solve their first great problem. They were not able to work out a theory which would justify large-scale confiscation and at the same time mesh with their other ideas about the nature of private ownership and its rights. For a consistent theory they substituted an emotional attack.¹³ They attacked clerics for their alleged misuse of wealth. But Sir Thomas More, the great Roman Catholic layman, answered this argument in A Supplication of Souls. If this is a valid premise for expropriation, he wrote, then there will be no end of expropriation. The King may use it against the church, but then the people will use it against the merchants (who bought the land from the King). Thus, concludes Schlatter, “The theorists of the Reformation could not answer More’s arguments without admitting the principle that all ownership was contingent upon right use. But no property owner was willing to grant that that principle should be enforced by any authority in this world. The theoretical problem was left unsolved.”14

Economic vs. Legal Control

The solution to this theoretical problem is found in the analysis of the operation of the free market. Yes, ownership does depend, economically, on proper use of resources. The legal title, however, does not rest on economic foundations but on historical or formal legal principles. It is the magnificent fusion of the right of free legal ownership and cost-bearing economic control of resources which the free-market commonwealth provides that overcomes the theoretical dilemma of medieval property theory. Laws against the confiscation of private property insure the smooth operation of the free market, and this in turn produces a system of economic organization which requires each owner of property to assume the costs associated with the control of property. Mises summarizes it quite well:

Private property is a human device. It is not sacred. It came into existence in early ages of history, when people with their own power and by their own authority appropriated to themselves what had previously not been anybody’s property. Again and again proprietors were robbed of their property by expropriation. This history of private property can be traced back to a point at which it originated out of acts which were certainly not legal. Virtually every owner is the direct or indirect legal successor of people who acquired ownership either by arbitrary appropriation of ownerless things or by violent spoliation of their predecessor.

However, the fact that legal formalism can trace back every title either to arbitrary appropriation or to violent expropriation has no significance whatever for the conditions of a market society. Ownership in the market economy is no longer linked up with the remote origin of private property. Those events in a far-distant past, hidden in the darkness of primitive mankind’s history, are no longer of any concern for our day. For in an unhampered market society the consumers daily decide anew who should own and how much he should own. The consumers allot control of the means of production to those who know how to use them best for the satisfaction of the most urgent wants of the consumers. Only in a legal and formalistic sense can the owners be considered the successors of appropriators and expropriators. In fact, they are man dataries of the consumers, bound by the operation of the market to serve the consumers best. Under capitalism,
private property is the consummation of the self-determination of the consumers.15

The confusion in men’s minds between the concept of free legal title and gratuitous ownership has led to numerous injustices in political and economic affairs. Mistakes in analysis at this point too often lead to cries of political intervention to right some supposed wrong. People want the state to enforce false analyses that seem, in the short run, to benefit some special-interest group.

Some men believe that free ownership is gratuitous, and that the deviation from such a hypothetical universe is the result of “exploitation.” They do not comprehend that they must defend their ownership in the market, satisfying the demands of the public efficiently. An example of this kind of erroneous thinking can be found in the case of American farmers during the great depression of the 1930′s. It was not uncommon for farmers to face the foreclosure of their mortgages by the local bank, or else by the solvent bank which had acquired the assets of the bankrupt rural bank. (Over 9,000 banks suspended payments in the years 1930-33, not counting banks that merged with others and those closed temporarily by the states or the Federal government during bank holidays.”16) Sometimes tax foreclosures would occur. In any case, local farmers would occasionally attend the auction, and a group of them would surround or threaten potential bidders, especially if they were outsiders to the community. Violence, or the threat of violence, was used directly to reduce the price of the bids, thus lowering the particular farmer’s costs in regaining title to his farm. The true costs of operating the farm were therefore artificially reduced, thereby lowering the owner’s burden of responsibility to the public, as registered on the open market.

Agricultural Legislation

This, however, was too crude and direct a form of violence to be used often, even when local law enforcement authorities permitted it. Violence could be applied far more effectively through state legislatures and the United States Congress. In 1934 three acts were passed by the Federal government, adding even further intervention into an already controlled farm market (e.g., the Farm Credit Act of 1933): the Farm Mortgage Refinancing Act, involving Federally insured loans; the Farm Mortgage Foreclosure Act, extending the authority to the Land Bank Commissioner to enable him to make loans to farmers, allowing them to redeem their farm properties prior to foreclosure; the Frazier-Lemke Bankruptcy Act, allowing the farmer who had lost his farm through foreclosure to demand a “fair and reasonable” appraisal and to repurchase his property over a period of six years at one per cent interest (interest rates were fairly low in the free market in these years, however). This last act was declared unconstitutional in 1935, but a similar act, shortening the repurchase time to three years, was upheld in 1936. In short, the coercive monopoly of legitimate power which belongs to civil government was applied in order to thwart the operation of the free market. Men successfully reduced the costs of ownership through collective violence or the threat of violence. Harold Underwood Faulkner, no supporter of the free market, has commented on the implications of these early policies of New Deal agriculture:

A survey of the farm legislation passed during the five years 1933-1938 make clear certain facts. First of all, “economic planning” was carried further with respect to agriculture than to any other economic interest. The government took upon itself the responsibility of attempting to determine both production and prices as well as maintaining soil resources and handling most of the credit resources of the farmers. In the second place, this program was carried out at the expense of the consumer. Agriculture was to be a favored industry, with the taxpayer and consumer paying the bill. This, of course, did not disturb the farmer; he insisted that agriculture was now merely receiving protection as industry had long received it through the protective tariff. Finally, it should be noted that the government entered so definitely into the program of financing agriculture that by 1937 its agencies held about half of the long-term agricultural paper of the country. This was indeed a big step from the laissez-faire policies of a quarter century earlier.¹7

Exclusive Right of Access

Not only do men erroneously believe that free title to a piece of property ought to bring with it gratuitous ownership, but they also err in believing that the right to bid on another’s property is, in and of itself, an exclusive possession of one bidder or one group of bidders. Such exclusive access involves a legal title, by definition. In other words, they think that their legal right to increase an-other’s opportunity cost for retaining possession of his property is, in effect, their own gratuitously held prerogative — a titled right to exclusive control of one segment of the market. Trade unions, for example, call in the coercive power  of the Federal government (through the Wagner Act and the National Labor Relations Board) to defend their exclusive right to bid on a particular labor contract, utterly free from the outside competition from other workers who might be willing to work for less money. The members of such organizations assume that they have a legitimate right to hold a job (or gain access to one through the union) apart from the daily competition necessary to defend their presence in that particular occupation. They call in the state to create by fiat a title to that occupation by arbitrarily excluding others from bidding.

— to a Given Job

What members of a union do have title to is their ability to work. But members of such coercive structures think that because they have legitimate title to their labor they also should have legal title to an opportunity to exercise their talents in some specific occupation, apart from outside competition, thus forcing the employer’s costs of operation higher than a free labor market would have permitted. They exclude other citizens who equally have title to their own labor, but who are not permitted to bid down the cost of hiring labor. By granting, by fiat intervention, titles of exclusive bidding rights to one group of laborers, the state effectively robs other men of their right to bid, and therefore of their right to exercise their personal talents.

By this confusion of the right to bid in the market and a title of exclusive access to that segment of the market, the state increases the employer’s costs of operation, reduces the union member’s opportunity costs (it does not cost him as much to retain his job, for outside competition for that job is eliminated, by state fiat), and it deprives nonunion laborers of their right to exercise their particular callings before God and society. A man’s legitimate right to bargain for his job, continuously (or whenever his labor contract is subject to renewal), is transformed by state fiat and legalized coercion into his right to avoid continuous bargaining. A three-way bargaining structure —employer, union member, and nonunion member — becomes, through the threat of state violence, a two-way bargaining structure, as the nonunion member is driven to accept other employment which he would not have chosen voluntarily. An exclusive title — a property right, in other words — is created by state fiat, where only a right to bargain in an open market had existed previously.

— to a Given Market Area

Trade union members are not alone in this confusion, unfortunately. Many, many businessmen involve themselves in precisely the same error. They use the interference of state violence to keep outsiders away from the market place. A three-way structure should exist: the consumer, the American producer, and the foreign producer. Instead, the American businessman seeks to make the structure a two-way arrangement: the consumer and only the American producer. Like the labor union member, he seeks to transform a right to bid in the market into an exclusive title of entry into the market. The usual means for this kind of operation is the tariff or the import quota. In principle it is identical to the activity of the state-supported trade union. Ironically, many businessmen who derive great personal satisfaction from castigating the “immoral” trade unions involve themselves in the same “immorality.” The game is the same; state “protection” from outside interference — the exclusiveness of a legal title to private property. Instead of a legal title to dispose of their assets and skills as they see fit, in open competition, subject to the imposition of the burdens of the responsibilities of ownership, businessmen want title to an exclusive right to dispose of their assets, apart from competition, apart from the full burdens (costs) of responsible ownership. Only the intervention of the state can grant such an escape from responsibility, so they call for the intervention of the state. Men simply like to enjoy the fruits of ownership apart from the responsibilities of ownership. They give up some of their freedom (or their neighbor’s freedom) in order to escape from responsibility. They call for the creation of legal titles where none could exist on a free market.


On the one hand, the owner of an exclusive title — a property right — cannot escape the costs of ownership and the concomitant obligation to act as a steward of his goods for the public’s benefit. He cannot escape so long as political intervention into the market does not occur. The fruits of ownership are not separated from the burdens of ownership. On the other hand, those who seek to make a bargain cannot, apart from state coercion or private violence, transform the right to dispose of one’s own property (talents) into an exclusive title to dispose of that property on a specific market apart from entry by other property owners who wish to bargain with their property. Titles of ownership refer to the control of property and skills by the owner; they do not refer to reciprocal relationships of exchange, where two owners seek to dispose of their property in a mutually acceptable manner. In fact, if exclusive titles are granted respecting the reciprocal human relationships, the rights of control over one’s own assets are thereby diminished. The title to property, which involves the right of voluntary disposal of that property, is compromised when the state interferes in the market in which men seek to dispose of their property. By granting titles of exclusive access to certain markets, the state thereby revokes some of the rights of ownership. The rights of ownership involve both the right to bid and the right to be bid against. Compromise either of the last two rights, and you have compromised the original rights of ownership. The right to be bid against is the provision of the legal structure which allows individuals in the marketplace to have the costs of ownership imposed on themselves and all other owners. Each time any group gets the state to protect it against the economic bidding of the public, it thereby reduces the efficiency of the market as well as the members’ own responsibility to bear the full costs of ownership. The overall wealth and overall freedom of the community are simultaneously reduced, because without efficiency, wealth is reduced, and without responsibility, freedom is reduced. If men would remain free, they must demand that they and their neighbors retain the right of responsibility. They must resist the attempts of men who would seek to escape both freedom and responsibility by lowering their competition from other participants in the market. Ownership is free, but not cheap. The same is true of freedom.



¹ Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (3rd ed.; Chicago: Regnery, 1966), pp. 311-12.

2 Cf. Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), ch. 4; Louis I. Bredvold, The Brave New World of the Enlightenment (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961).

3 The concept of the public schools as America’s only established church is brought forcefully in Sidney E. Mead’s The Lively Experiment (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), ch. 4. Cf. R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press, 1963).

4 The separation of church and state, it must be stressed, came to the American colonies quite early; Rhode Island accepted the principle from the beginning. But orthodox Connecticut was forced to adopt it as a result of the religious tumult caused by the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century; it was brought into existence by Christians, not secularists or the tiny handful of Unitarians and Deists: Richard L. Bushman, From Puritan to Yankee (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), ch. 13.

5 Paul Craig Roberts, “The Polycentric Soviet Economy” The Journal of Law and Economics, XII (April, 1969): Herbert S. Levine “The Centralized Planning of Supply in Soviet Industry,” (1959), in Wayne A. Leeman (ed.), Capitalism, Market Socialism, and Central Planning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963); Gary North, “The Crisis in Soviet Economic Planning,” Modern Age, XIV (Winter, 1969-70).

6 Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, [1944] 1969).

7 Gary North, “Statist Bureaucracy in the Modern Economy,” THE FREEMAN (Jan., 1970).

8 Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State (Los Angeles: Nash, [1962] 1971), p. 4.

9 R. J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press, 1971), surveys the history of this vitally important philosophical problem. He argues that modern philosophers prefer to avoid discussing the issue because they have been able to find no secular answer to it.

10 Mises, Socialism (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press [1922] 1951), pp. 275-76.

11 Ibid., p. 276.

¹2 Mises, Human Action, pp. 683-84.

¹3 Richard Schlatter, Private Property: The History of an Idea (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1951), p. 81.

14 Ibid., pp. 86-87.

¹5 Mises, Human Action, p. 683.

16 Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1957 (Washington, D. C.: Bureau of the Census, 1960), p. 636 (explanation of statistics on p. 619).

17 Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History (5th ed.; New York: Harper & Bros., 1943), p. 656. 

  • Dr. North is president of The Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas. He was FEE’s director of seminars in the early 1970s and has served as a member of the board of trustees.