Excerpt from Chapter II
MYTH 1: PRIVATE PROPERTY IS A GOD-GIVEN RIGHT
The legitimacy of capitalism hinges on the assumption that it is a “natural” right (which therefore always existed) of individuals or groups to hold property in whatever form for their exclusive use – i.e., “privately.” Does human history support this claim – and, if not, when did the concept along with its implementation come into being?
The contention between public and private property is not over personal property, such as clothes, cars, homes, etc., but over the resources of the world and the facilities that turn these resources into commodities and distribute them. No one questions anyone’s “right” to “own” his pair of shoes. And even here, free use rather than ownership is the issue – “free use” meaning doing what one wants with the property, not necessarily without cost or specific restrictions and responsibilities affecting society as a whole. For example, whether someone owns a dwelling or is simply given use of it, it’s questionable if he is “free” during an energy crisis to refuse to make the dwelling energy efficient. If he is otherwise free to do what he wants with his dwelling, ownership becomes irrelevant. Ownership is important only when something is commoditized – i.e., when it enters a market subject to capitalism’s rules of for-profit exchange