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The Sanctity of Private Property
by Anthony M. Ludovici Heath Cranton Limited London 1932
- p. v Preface The present little work consists of an address delivered by the author to a meeting of the St. James's Kin of the English Mistery on November 10th, 1931. In view of the interest which, in these days of high taxation and Communistic propaganda, attaches to the problem of private property, the members of the English Mistery, as also the author, hoped that a wider public might be glad of this concise discussion of the subject, and it was therefore decided to issue it in book form. The right of private property and the question of its sanctity or profanity have so long been debated by the two opposing schools of Capitalism and Communism, and every term and position in the controversy is now so deeply infected with prejudice, that a brief and impartial review of the history and philosophy of the subject, together with a suggested solution of the problem of proprietary rights, based neither on the Capitalist nor on the Communist standpoint, cannot, it is thought, fail to be of help, if only as a starting point for the reader's own speculations. - p. 7 The Sanctity of Private Property 1. It would be impossible in the limited space at my disposal to give an adequate idea of the confusion that prevails in modern thought, modern historical interpretation and modern anthropological theories, regarding the institution of private property. Suffice it to say that, in the course of their enquiry into this institution, economists and scholars always claim the scientific method as the justification for their conclusions, and that this method is almost as frequently abused, feigned, or neglected. A mass of literature has been published on the subject, and threequarters of it consists merely of preconceptions and prejudice. The anxiety to establish the institution of private property upon the solid foundation of a first
principle of life or human nature, upon a natural or divine law, or even upon irrefutable data concerning origins, has led most investigators astray, and made them forget that human institutions are all ultimately derived from human taste and selection, and that as a rule their credit endures only so long as the taste of their founders is shared or at least approximately equalled by posterity. 2. To deal with the anthropological theories first, we may, for the sake of brevity, divide them into two, as belonging respectively to the principal hostile scientific camps — the theory of those who argue from their study of primitive races that all property was originally communal, and the theory of those who, - p. 8 arguing from more or less the same data, claim, on the contrary, that all property was originally private. The first regard communism as natural, and private ownership as a subsequent corruption, while the latter regard the converse as true. These enquiries of the anthropologists regarding the question of property have been pursued in accordance with a method that has crept into the science of economics and sociology, and which consists in the practice of seeking the raison d'être, and the soundness of modern political or social institutions, or sometimes even the warrant for them, in the habits, traditions and ceremonies of savages. It is as if the motive behind such a method were the conviction that whenever an institution can be found to exist among men in a state of nature, it must possess some extraordinary quality compelling respect and consideration. It is really an effort along the lines of evolutionary sociology, having for its object the establishment of modern sociological principles and laws upon the logic of unsophisticated humanity surviving in the heart of nature. It is, however, a romantic or sentimental method of procedure; for interesting as the habits and ceremonies of savages may be in themselves, they cannot be very helpful to us as guides in the criticism or elaboration of the rules governing our own society, nor can they tell us much concerning its evolution. Nevertheless, countless volumes have been written and are still being written along these lines. We are surfeited with facts concerning primitive marriage, primitive religion and primitive morality. But, for our present purpose at least, it is necessary to record only one achievement that has resulted from all this labour, which is that both of the old rival schools of anthropology — that which regarded communal possession and that which regarded private ownership as the original institutions of mankind — have been proved - p. 9 equally wrong. For the correct verdict turns out to be that the blend of communal with individual ownership is characteristic of all primitive society and "no irrational, undifferentiated absorption of the individual in the group can be discovered." Naturally the Communists, men like Engels and Marx, seized upon the evidence in favour of communal possessions in primitive societies, in order to support their own political aims, while those in favour of a capitalistic order made an equally one-sided use of the other evidence. But even if one of these — say the
or among past primitive races. or natural and proper to the animal man. Roman jurisprudence which. . the former seek for a fundamental law. cannot fail. . what would this have proved in favour of establishing the same order at the present time? Surely it must soon become evident to our learned sociologists and economists that the attempt to explain. R. They must omit the very earliest history of those races whom we have known or can know only as civilized or half-civilized. or among past primitive races. Their thought and speculations on this matter of property fit very much more perfectly the England of to-day than the England of yesterday. we encounter much the same striving as among the anthropologists. the attempt to base upon such anthropological data any rule for the observance of modern mankind. . Rivers on purely scientific grounds actually championed the view that communal ownership was the primitive form). They had the urban mind. quite apart from the problem of property. H. has communal possession been found to exist unblended with private ownership or vice versa. that. after all. must be unscientific. a word of warning seems to be necessary. or any first principle on which to build a system. inherent in humanity or human society in general. "It is . let the fact be known for what it is worth. from the very start. . Could it possibly have failed to be translated into action? When Maine said.Communists — had found communal possession universally established among existing primitive races (W. 10 To those whom it may interest. 3. these data cannot tell more than an incomplete story — the story of the most backward peoples. which makes either communal possession or private ownership appear to be sacrosanct. Because Europe has been very deeply influenced by them it is always well to bear in mind. In fact. the urban attitude to all things. In any case. if we can. or an a priori and self-evident principle. because. however. illustrate. they were first and foremost townsmen. Turning now to the philosophers and their work on the problem of private property. though with this difference — that while the latter sought their authority or basis for one form or the other of ownership in the customs of primitive man.p. transformed by the theory of Natural Law. quite apart from the sentimental bias behind it. because it is always open to the sceptic to ask whether the fact that these existing primitive peoples have remained at the bottom of the hierarchy of races may not be due to the very institutions which we study with so much reverence and humility. may not in part be due to the circumstance that. to prove the sorriest waste of useful energy. This has tinctured the whole of our philosophy. European thought was the thought of men born and bred in city states. at best. that nowhere in existing primitive races. or support our own civilized institutions by a study of the institutions of existing or past primitive peoples. the modern world may never fully understand how much of its tendency to develop and multiply large urban centres to the sacrifice of everything else. Regarding at least the early philosophers and legislators.
in the ancient world of Greece and Rome. carriages. is more true of the modern Western European townsman than of the townsman of Athens or Rome. is an important factor. have. either to the townsman or anyone else — the land. And this is more or less comprehensible. that is. coin." such as cattle. But whether London and Paris would .. or destruction [this last is important as divorcing the owner of the object entirely from any duty of obligation to others in connexion with his ownership] and the right of free alienation. like land and riches beyond the individual's physical and professional needs. and we might say with justice that it was among these men that the notion that the ownership of all things might be absolute first occurred to the Western World. first of Greece and Rome. on the whole. is chiefly the kind of property which may form the object of unconditional or unlimited ownership. ornaments — those things of which ownership divorced from duty is not. that is to say free from all social duties and obligations. And that is why the history of the law and of the ideas on property. the rivers. 2 Had they known more. Thus Maine is able to say with good reason that the history of Roman Property Law is the history of the assimilation of Res mancipi to Res nec mancipi. with the corresponding liability to alienation for debt. tends to follow this course — gradually to include in the class of things of which absolute ownership is normal and possible to the townsman — clothes." he had this important fact in mind. great riches beyond a man's physical needs. or of things which require a mancipation to things which do not require it. 12 even to this kind of property the idea of freedom from all social duty or obligation. At all events. and of which English law precisely states that they "are the objects of absolute ownership. But this is also the history of English and French Law. the lakes. they would probably have felt less inclined to extend 1 J. mainly including the right to maintain or recover possession of the things against or from all persons. . of a right of exclusive enjoyment.p. Williams: Principles of the Law of Personal Property. alteration. clothes. is more than usually apparent in their treatment of our problem. Things which could not without danger become objects of absolute ownership. for men bred in city states. furniture. to develop this idea of property. the urban life of the thinkers and lawyers of Athens. They knew little of any other kind. For what a townsman handles. but its partial truth even in regard to the latter. and further comprehending the right of free use. because this was the kind of property with which they were chiefly concerned. become entirely emancipated. working at the same problem. what he is accustomed to hold as his own. trinkets." 1 Now I suggest that it was natural for townsmen. or ownership divorced from duties — the kind of property which English law terms "choses in possession. which is too often overlooked. or should not be possible.. Sparta and Rome. etc. house furniture. through the influence of the urban mind. and finally of London and Paris. 11 has bequeathed to the moderns the impression that individual ownership is the normal state of proprietary right. 2 This. etc.p.
Lassalle. 1 individual ownership in 1 I am not. Robespierre. Say. including Rousseau and his followers. But of the various attempts to derive it in this manner. Montesquieu. Mirabeau. for whereas France. and St. it is well to remember the biassed beginnings of thought on property in Europe. (d) Those who say that law creates private property. and to bear in mind through what influence the impression arose that absolute individual ownership is the normal state of proprietary right. morality or logic. recognized rights of absolute ownership in all things only at the time of the Revolution in 1793. At all events. Wagner. are St. and thinkers like Kant. There is no a priori truth. it is impossible to say. the ownership of the land had become free and personal in Gaul under Roman rule. but with as little intention as Locke himself had of giving arguments to the Communists.p. When. . while the attempt to do the same for communal ownership has been even more hopeless. Augustine. a country which might be supposed to have been more influenced by Roman Law. Karl Marx. in which. 14 together with men like Grotius. we study the philosophers on this question of private property. although the right of private property has been advocated and defended by Western European philosophers and lawyers from the dawn of history as something self-evident. Foremost among these is Locke and through him the economists Adam Smith. Stalin. In any case. France was a little slower than England. Pufendorf. without the antecedent influence of Greece and Rome. Ricardo. (c) Those who set up the idea of contract as the origin of private property. Bossuet. etc. Lewinski (the latter writing against Maine). Hume. Thiers. 13 all things divorced from duties and obligations was finally made possible in England at the close of the Puritans' all too lengthy spell of power in 1660. . (b) Those who point to work or labour as the origin or sanctification of private property. the Communists. including the period previous to the Barbarian Invasion. etc. Among these. . Lenin. not one has ever succeeded in establishing it on a fundamental law or principle of life. of course. Engels. Among these are the Roman lawyers. Thomas Aquinas. as does also Kant. Trendelenburg. Among these are Hobbes and his followers. I may mention the claims of:— (a) Those who argue that occupation is the origin of private property. therefore. Spencer and Mill also to some extent held and supported Locke's view. who here and there necessarily merge into the preceding group. no self-evident principle from which the right of private property can be derived. I venture to doubt it. it may be admitted at once that. Hume with his idea of an original "convention" belongs to this group. Tronchet. as is well known.p.ever have arrived so quickly at the idea of absolute ownership in all things.
accustomed to the baubles which a man can hold without having to give an account of them to anyone. custom and law. Most of them. however. They were townsmen. Among these are Blackstone (to some extent the Roman lawyers and the Catholic Church). His discussion of the subject. bases it on what he calls "the law of equal freedom. the thinkers along this line have been more concerend about finding a fundamental principle to explain the self-evidence and inviolability of individual proprietary rights than about justifying them. and we find ourselves forced to the conclusion that just as "private property has meant an immense number of different things at different times and places. except the Utilitarians and those who see in law and expediency a warrant for private property. Portalis. 15 of property as there are kinds of civilization. although it reveals.p. and that in justifying them — and justified they must be — presentday thinkers are to some extent treading absolutely virgin soil. But there was perhaps less readiness to grant or admit absolute individual ownership in Greece than in Rome. Oder der Mensch wird morden und brennen. even to those things which in their earlier history had allowed only of the notion of limited. Bentham. like Kant.Kant. more or less gratuitously. Mill — in fact all the Utilitarians. According to the end we wish to achieve with man and society. makes a very good case. Fichte. is nevertheless very searching and reasonable. (f) Those who claim it as a natural human right. who rest proprietary rights on labour." so there are as many solutions of the problem . The compulsory readjustments of wealth and . conditional. it is as well to bear constantly in mind that we are children of a long line of people — a line stretching across two millenniums — who. no reason to suppose that Spencer was inspired by Kant. as we have seen. according to the degree of permanence we wish to secure. Schiller was also one of these with his:— "Etwas muss er sein eigen nennen. including Locke and his followers. Daloz. But. (e) Those who say that the nature of man makes it necessary and useful. Among these are Roscher. who. end in absurdity. that. and the establishment of such rights is a matter of taste. or usufructuary possession (possessio). however. xi) None of these thinkers. Bentham. so shall we determine the kind of proprietary rights which it is expedient to grant to individuals. moreover. startling instances of shallowness. here and there." There is. have taken individual proprietary rights as self-evident. in exercising taste and judgment in this undertaking. Hume can be included in this group also." (Wallensetin's Lager. and Herbert Spencer. Laveleye. Professor Ahrens. I have said that it was through no accident that the classical thinkers and lawyers should gradually have extended the notion of absolute private ownership (dominium) to all things.
To early Christianity the institution of private property was not merely unwise. before it had had the time or the opportunity to develop Aristotle's more balanced view. It is perfectly true that the wealthy Romans also performed public services. we find a recommendation regarding wealth which reveals a point of view very much wiser than the later Roman conception of free individual ownership. it is very pleasing to us to oblige and assist our friends and companions. "that it is best to have property private. to which they pay less attention than is incumbent on everyone). unlike the Agrarian Laws of the Gracchi. and that is probably why Christianity found such a favourable environment for its teaching in the Roman . and as being more conducive to the development of character (for restraint and liberality are made possible by it). Thought in Europe on the problem of property thus became absorbed in a negative or hostile attitude to riches as such. Aristotle defends private ownership as being economically superior (because all men regard more what is their own than what others share with them in. In the Politics. was no doubt stimulated by the rigour of the Roman conception of absolute private ownership in a way in which it would never have been stimulated by the Greek attitude. 284).p. and was classed among the many evil and inevitable consequences of the Fall.property in ancient Greece — readjustments which. but this meaning can be read into Aristotle's words without difficulty. and more regularly prompted by mere ostentation. but these appear to have been more volun. and forms so prominent a part of Christian doctrine and the writings of the early Christian Fathers. l6 tary than those of the Greeks.p.C. 17 Empire.). There was in Rome little of the feeling that is consonant with this view of property. Not only did the early Fathers of the Church regard Communism as the original state of innocent and blissful mankind. . Besides. as we know. a freedom never enjoyed in Athens to the same extent. Charity was not the duty of giving. were successfully maintained — point to this. but. "It is evident then. as do also the innumerable public services which the wealthy were called upon and expected to perform. Perhaps this may explain why. ." There is no explicit statement that private property when it exceeds certain limits involves certain duties and obligations. to A. in the early years of the Church." he concludes. The revolt against riches which was already discernible in Stoicism. it was actually sinful. it was the duty of restoring to the destitute that which was their . On the whole.D. while it should always be remembered that they were most conspicuous at a time when Roman citizens were entirely free from direct taxation (167 B. the general impression obtained from a comparison of the two civilizations is that private wealth in Greece was regarded as very much more dutiable and accessible to the public than it was in Rome. as being a source of pleasure (for it is unspeakable how advantageous it is that a man should think he has something which he may call his own. . but to make the use of it common. in Aristotle. Christians also practised and advocated Communism. But he insists repeatedly on the desirability of blending private and communal ownership. etc.
p. of even thinking out any practical means. and the original designers of which nobody can name. to follow the philosophic method and try to convince mankind afresh along logical and self-evident lines. For although we may be seeking for no canon. we may. Gregory's inflammatory utterance to Lenin's cry to the people of St. the origin of which no one precisely knows. Nor is it any good now. unless we can contrive a method by which property can be enjoyed jointly only in so far as it does not destroy freedom and character. nevertheless. of the desirability of either private property or Communism. at this late hour. "Rob back that which has been robbed. and privately only in so far as it expresses and preserves both (and such a system was Feudalism). and we can pass over the thinkers and philosophers and turn to history. when we give to the poor we render to them that which is their own. of course. it may be said that there is little that has been heard since Aristotle which improves on his position or which adds to it. For. Now although. Petersburg in April. and it is one expressly advocated by Aristotle. he means what I do. private property was explicitly declared to be a necessary though regrettable consequence of our fallen condition. On the whole. then. in charity. 1917. It was not an act of mercy. we shall merely be wasting our time and hastening the disintegration that threatens. And it is significant that this cry of Lenin's also came after a long spell of the rigorous observance of private ownership in the most absolute and irresponsible sense. . feel sure that the study of history will at least enable us to see the . apart from the spontaneous growth of Feudalism in Europe. The historical method of enquiry into the problem of private property is certainly more helpful than the philosophic method. and less so. we do not give what is ours.own." is not a very great step. like many modern sociologists. Thomas Aquinas actually advocated robbery as a means of relieving destitution. perhaps. nobody can deny that from St. but an act of simple justice. and. unless we are prepared to evolve a system based on Aristotle's principle. 18 The compromise between the Roman idea of private proprietary rights in the sense of dominium. Mill to remark: "The principle of private property has never yet had a fair trial in any country. to accept as sacrosanct or respectable that which primitive people or early societies of mankind have practised. St. by this. 19 4. Gregory said. St. in this country than in some others"? If. by which the right of private property can be re-wedded to function and duty. and the claims of Christianity. . side by side with these dubious exhortations to charity. Was it perhaps this thought that caused J. any social structure. and freed from its present irresponsibility and consequent abuses. and are not prepared. there has been no attempt since Aristotle first stated the principle. resulted.p. through which the advantages of private property might be preserved while its asperities and gross abuses were mitigated. S. Mill meant that the institution of private property has never yet been protected against itself.
26. marked by a hardening of the right of individual ownership as each society approaches its decadence. loading him with taxes and forcing him to enter into competition with people who easily overpowered him? Who could ever gather from these histories that from 1793 onwards in France. to Greece. those austere moralists of the seventeenth century. pp. and their rebuilding of the Temple. and as fast as the latter form encroached on the former in each nation. with private and absolute ownership. and other secular rights of equal importance. following Calvin. of the French Revolution. nor of Communism. after reading the histories. we never see an enforcement of private ownership in all things. The early legislators seem always to have been eager to combine communal or conditional. and critics of Charles I's finance. which was nothing but an insignificant little Persian province.different institutions of civilized mankind in the process of working. An extremely impressive instance of this is to be found in the history of the Jews. and the enquiry has to be prosecuted with consistent scepticism.p. after reading the Whig histories with which alone we have been provided for generations in this country. 20 clutches of the usurers and middlemen. Who. and were most eager to be "freed from the efforts of the King's council to bring home to the employing and mercantile classes their duty to the community?" 1 But such is indeed the fact. 25. rejected the Canon Law against usury. But. would ever suspect that this event in France stripped the peasant of his rights of common. and "oppressive" notions of rule. Now the history of the so-called historical period reveals a picture not of private ownership. for instance. as was customary in the later period of Rome. to Egypt. and delivered him up defenceless into the 1 Archdeacon Cunningham: The Moral Witness of the Church on the Investment of Money. . but of a blend of the two. soon developed all the injustices and symptoms of oppression . and to judge of their viability and worth by the extent of their endurance and the kind of people and culture with which they were associated. Who.C. in the work of the historians. and as is customary to-day in Western Europe and England. the nearer the civilization approached disintegration. would ever have imagined that the Puritans. those scholars of Old Testament lore. prejudice and deliberate misrepresentation. to China. both English and French. the right of private property became far more rigorous and absolute than it had ever been? But such are the facts.. After the return of the exiles from their captivity in Babylon in the sixth century B. sense of honour. were the men who. again. In the period of growth and development. Rome or mediaeval Europe. when institutions are flourishing. it was found that the community they formed in Judah. but we do find private ownership of some things as an essential part of the civilization. it is difficult to escape preconceptions. and this is so whether we turn to Judah.
many members of which had been reduced to the position of serfs. heard the lamentations of the oppressed. unto them even this day. and for the last 500 years of this dynasty China was in a state of complete confusion. . "Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury. and a sort of redistribution of property was effected which struck even at the priests. their oliveyards and their houses. there had grown up a new capitalist class who lent money to the poorer . as a people. to exact the smallest tribute for any help he had given.). 22 Nehemiah himself set the example.C. I pray you. who was above all a patriot. and sometimes even the debtor himself and his children. Restore." And he commanded them saying "I pray you let us leave off this usury. or probably a little earlier (for the process was gradual) it was impossible for anyone to accumulate unlimited wealth. usury of money." And they did so. and "set a great assembly against them. Up to the time of the sixth century B.p. Nehemiah.p. disorder. for the purposes of house-building. that is to say. buying seed and the payment of the King's tribute. had always shown the greatest horror of just such a state of affairs as this. and saw the kind of social conditions that had been created in Judah by these people of his own race. who were made to take an oath to restore property confiscated for debt. "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother. and on the other a wholly dispossessed class. usury of anything that is lent upon usury. Now the Israelites. which implied that usury is not wrong in itself. and rebuked the nobles and the rulers. but only wrong as against a fellow-citizen. and thus the law triumphed over self-interest." And there follows the perfectly justifiable reservation with regard to strangers. their vineyards. But the speed with which similar evils call forth similar remedies.inseparable from uncontrolled conditions of wealth.. also the hundredth part of the money. their lands. who had set out from Babylon with such pure and lofty intentions. and of the corn. Side by side with the respected families with old traditions. therefore. In China the Feudal System lasted under the Chow Dynasty for 866 years (1122 to 256 B. It is explicitly stated in Deuteronomy that no Israelite should exploit a member of his own community in this way. is shown by the fact that no later than the fifth century B." When. and refused. but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury. usury of victuals. and therefore of the means of accumulating wealth. and made his own servants refuse. the vineyards and olive-groves of the debtor. about a century after the introduction of money. in dealing with whom there can be no intraherd duties. 21 among the returned exiles. . the Chinese were already recommending the control of capital.C. and as security for this they accepted the arable land. the wine. that ye exact of them. anarchy and internecine wars occurred. In a few years this system led to the existence of a plutocracy on the one hand. he was very angry. but as the system degenerated into one of absolute private ownership.C. just as the plutocrats had done. and the oil.
from the possessores. by their Agrarian Laws.e. They were not only subjected to capital levies. or ownership bound up with duties and obligations.p. after the sixteenth century. The history of property in Rome. which meant that they had to keep a vessel and its fittings in good repair. was regarded as a danger and had to be checked by redistribution. But when the two Gracchi attempted. or to consult the oracle. each of whom was rich enough to maintain one ship for a year. 23 conditional nature of the original proprietary rights and of the sound prejudice against excessive accumulation. In this way the Athenian democracy not only financed its national administration. shows that here. nearly all the land. but later on it was possible to find only couples or whole companies who could meet this charge. Pericles. while throughout the history of Athens we are constantly reminded of the . from time to time. And just as England. thanks to the enormous development of her industries and wealth began to be able. They were expected at great expense to maintain and train the choruses for festivals and to defray the expenses of other annual "liturgies" or public services. as I have already pointed out.In Egypt the system was also feudal. too. these mere possessores. moreover. each in turn had recourse to redistribution to try to avert catastrophe. 24 whole. Lycurgus and Agis. had passed into private hands. reveals a steady encroachment of absolute private ownership upon conditional ownership. were despatched to attend some festival outside Athens. and all the resulting evils of such a condition. Solon. but the fact that. from time to time. and were obliged to have recourse to a redistribution.p.C. It is true that the bulk of the ultimate private owners of the land had either descended. to support a huge and increasing population of dispossessed people . the tendency of the blend of private and communal or conditional ownership. the reforms attempted by these brothers came to nothing. with the consequent accumulation of large fortunes in the hands of a few irresponsible people. and the fact that they succeeded is shown by the nomination of trierarchs at different periods. They were. bound to defray the expense of the embassies which. In Greece we encounter the same dangerous development and the same remedies. but also tried to prevent gross accumulations of property in private hands. and by 111 B. which had been public property. to effect an equitable redistribution of lands. the Pharaohs had to intervene in order to buy back from rapacious landlords land that had become private property. In Rome the development was slightly different. or had bought their land. i. but were also made to serve as trierarchs. and to compensate the State if the vessel was lost or damaged through negligence. At the beginning of the Peloponnesian War the Athenians were able to nominate 400 men annually. protested as if Tiberius and Gaius were perpetrating an act of robbery. to degenerate into purely private ownership. men who had only conditional or usufructuary rights granted by the community as a . by the innumerable services imposed upon and expected of the rich. who had no rights of private ownership in the land.
were expected frequently to devote large sums from their private purses to the celebration of games. though perhaps not so marked as it was in Greece. before the privileges of leadership were well denned. and that State lands were originally occupied and cultivated by merely usufructuary tenants. the Army and the Navy to-day. relating to property. individual Romans willingly undertook tasks (upkeep of public buildings. the repair of roads. In mediaeval Europe. drainage in and outside the city. there can hardly be any doubt that. at any rate. to administer justice. in its early stages. The position of the rulers was so far from being a sinecure that they could be called upon to risk life and limb for the protection of their dependants and their king. without causing an insurrection among its despoiled and impoverished citizens. Nothing in any way as desirable had been evolved in Greece or Rome. 25 wise have been a very heavy burden on the public treasury. were always supposed to be held in trust for the poor. Nerva and Septimius Severus. vestiges of a system of conditional ownership survived in a rough and disorganized form. to guarantee a certain military contingent adequately armed and equipped. without enough of it to cause an upheaval. to consult with their dependants and superiors concerning local and national policy. bridges and harbours) which would other. after 167 B.without too much material hardship. while. Thus. while the last remains of cultivated public lands in Italy were sold or given away by the Flavian Emperors. and gradually to complete the conversion of conditional or communal. with a recognition of the need of that leisure and of the benefits accruing to the nation as a whole from the possibility of such leisure. so Rome. or. It provided leisure for the rulers. and allowed for all the advantages of private property without ever tolerating absolute and irresponsible ownership in the principal means of production then known. Even the Church lands.C. men are found who decline promotion out of fear of increased responsibility) but . and evolved an intricate and decentralized form of administration. The fact that under the Republic the city magistrates served without pay. shows that the association of private wealth with certain public obligations was an essential feature of the culture. not only were men reluctant to undertake them . although the right of absolute ownership appears to have become universal comparatively early in Rome.p. was able to abolish the tributum civium Romanorum. in the early Empire. including the Church. It provided defence and revenue. to maintain law and order in their locality. themselves. 26 (just as in all hierarchies. into private land tenure. consisting of graduated privileges and obligations extending without a break from the serf to the presiding monarch. which was the land. Other small redistributions of land occurred under Cæsar. In fact. the Feudal System gathered up and organized all that was best in the institutions of the ancient world. and to control and perform any number of other duties which made up the life of an agricultural landlord of the period. whom it fed and amused gratuitously. the duties of the chief or lord under the Feudal System were so heavy with responsibility that.p.
by which a thing of value was held. but. the right of private property was nevertheless sufficiently conceded. so as to secure the chief the necessary leisure.the communities. was firmly resisted by Elizabeth and Charles I. Not one scrap of that feudal property could be transferred indiscriminately without the risk of destroying its value — so much so. all that we need remark is that the encroachment of absolute. in the early eighteenth century. so as to supply him not only with comfort. at least in the means of production. and to . each of whom took steps to control capital. and to provide for the adequate development of character. which. and. Contrary to Hume's hasty assumption concerning the transference of what he termed "external" goods. in Feudalism made the position of the lowest in the land not only as secure but also as essential as that of his immediate and remotest superior. and that this process of disintegration did not lead. too. and probably. from the lowest to the highest. good quarters urgently pressed upon him. others unavoidable — at least to the men of the period. irresponsible individual ownership upon conditional ownership. was one of voluntary service. The break up of Feudalism was due to an infinite number of causes. The onrush of the new system. hereditary rights of chieftainship. willingly performed. when any of it became available through death or some other cause. and has not yet led. and over the alienation of property which. is the most enlightening proof of the change in point of view which had come over England since the close of the feudal period. have seemed so oppressive and unjust. which received so important an impetus from Henry VIII and has lasted until the present day. were also prepared to make substantial sacrifices in order to lure candidates. 27 to take it over. And it was this fact that gave to the lord those powers over the marriage of heiresses and widows. some avoidable. to prevent it from accumulating in a few hands. to later generations. but rather moral and political. while nothing in the form of irresponsible and absolute individual ownership existed. from our present point of view. of graduated service and privilege. to lend adequate freedom and dignity to the life of the individual. In any case. that every possible precaution was taken to secure similar individuals to hold it. who wanted chiefs. but also and principally with suitable accommodation for the discharge of his many public duties in a dignified and adequate manner. the system of irresponsible proprietary rights.p. protection and service. or ownership based upon obligations and duties. The principle of mutual obligation and loyalty. was able actually to define "external" property as of that kind which can be transferred without loss or alteration. to any attempt at reinstating a system of responsible proprietary rights. not intended to be chiefly economic in character. Such sacrifices probably consisted of corvées. of graduated loyalties and obligations. it could not be transferred without suffering any loss or alteration unless men similar to its original holders could be found . The fact that Hume. marked the process of disintegration. the final outcome was an organization of property. in which the form of tenure. bound together all ranks of society.
has no bearing on character. For the absoluteness of private ownership in everything led. which was always indiscriminate. promoting and defending it. From that day there remained but two possible means of attaching social obligations to property — taxation. a huge body of dispossessed.p. are quite anonymous or impersonal. etc. the new era was successfully launched. with the prevailing anarchy in the administration and testamentary disposal of property. With rapid strides. of the benefits of private ownership. and the passing of one or two statutes in Charles II's reign. 1 and charity. though these duties were probably undertaken from motives more often of self-protection than of patriotism. or the tradition. and fails to functionalize privilege and property.. who are often deprived. which. the foundations of the present capitalistic system were completed. in modern Capitalism. and which. independent rich certain duties towards the community. and an alleged deep concern for the liberties of the People. which is almost always anonymous and unseen (the French logically call Limited Liability Companies. see my Defence of Aristocracy. and in the few years that separated the Long Parliament's struggle with Charles I for a free hand.impose upon the new.p. 29 could be owned. in a society approving of private ownership on moral grounds. and must fail. which extended the capitalists' policy to the land. Sociétés anonymes). did remain. constitutes one of the most distressing and perplexing features of the modern Age. were nevertheless loyally rendered by the bulk of the English propertied class. behind the imposing facade of religious fervour. to consequences that ought to have been foreseen and guarded against — the accumulation of vast wealth in a few hands. was always directed to the support and promotion of the most degenerate and least desirable elements in the nation. 28 of the new order. This failure displayed by later usages and institutions to attach to rank and privilege a corresponding obligation and function. do nothing to knit . which owing to the necessity. were too many liberated human passions. irresponsibility in the administration and the testamentary disposal of that wealth. because such methods have no organizing power. was bound to lead to a hopeless squandering of the national wealth (particularly by women) on the most unwise foundations and institutions. and ultimately. Now the frantic efforts to save Capitalism by recourse to indiscriminate confiscation in the form of heavy taxation. . the participation in politics. and by sentimentality in the form of indiscriminate charity. But in favour . which is merely expropriation. I refer to the work of magistrates. too many powerful and venal motives. of urging it by appeals to pity. In fact Charles I may be said to have sacrificed his head in the prosecution of these three aims. while at the same time they hardened the right of individual ownership and resolutely universalized the "external" goods that 1 Certain services. although not legally exigible. fails. loyalty and honour. the party in favour of laisser-faire — for that is what it amounted to — won the day. For evidence of this. and a commercial and industrial regimen of these dispossessed. of course.
mental defectives. disintegration has always threatened. and that this is always a sign of political decay. That at such moments of crisis. and are. whose passport into society almost depends upon the amount of iodoform-laden air he has recently inhaled. but also for the individual. stands for sacrifice to the cripples. 5. mutual loyalty and obligation. the efforts of ancient legislators — Nehemiah. That everywhere this right has been to some extent limited.the various strata of the nation together. That the grand experiment of mediaeval Europe in the art of combining all the privileges of private ownership with those of conditional ownership and duty. acquisitiveness and short-sightedness of man tends gradually in weak societies to convert any form of conditional ownership. From this brief sketch of history we seem justified in concluding: . in the anticipation of which the masses are again being taught both by doctrinaires and circumstances. lunatics and degenerates of all kinds. Agis.p. to call the institution of private property in . For while indiscriminate taxation does not guard against the possibility of seriously depreciating or even destroying property by here and there removing it from owners who administer it exceptionally well. we find the recurrence of abuses and errors. combined with large accumulations of it in a few hands. to mention only a few — have always been to avert disaster by trying to restore to the majority those very benefits. charity. moreover. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. in which the irresponsible administration . and of organizing the two on a basis of graduated rank and responsibility. is accompanied by the existence of a vast multitude of disinherited or destitute people. and has led to the accumulation of vast fortunes in a few hands. and at the same time as a development of some of the hardest lessons learned by the man of antiquity. as if this were necessarily good and desirable. or ownership bound up with duties. Lycurgus. That the cupidity. Solon. 31 of wealth. which are the sole basis for the persistence of individual ownership as an institution. which deliberately shuts out all thought of the farmer's attitude to the weeds in his precious crop. Pericles. or property. and good not only for the nation as a whole. which are leading to a fresh crisis. into private and absolute ownership. 30 That great civilizations and great peoples have without exception been observers of the right of private ownership. particularly in regard to the land. incurables. That in the comparatively recent system called Capitalism. That wherever and whenever absolute private ownership has been extended to every possible form of goods. and the creation of a class wholly dispossessed and dependent in a wholly non-functional way.p. must seem to us rather like a reaction after the long spell of "free" proprietorship which spread throughout the Roman Empire as the result of Roman Law. wasteful and mischievous.
it has been tried again and again. on the contrary. and the best testamentary disposer of such property. that after each phase of universalized private ownership and irresponsibility there has followed a reaction in which the very right of private property has been put in question. against the claims of Communism it is no good for the Capitalists with their hands on their hearts to claim that there is anything divine or fundamentally sacred about the right of private property. it is no good for Communists to reply to the claims of the Capitalists that they hold a panacea for all the world's ills. which is really expropriation and therefore partial Communism. Finally. Against the increasing burdens of taxation. because it is precisely the hardening of . Communism is a condition in which the best administrator of property is assumed to be the central Government. It behoves us. These two forms of nonsense are now at death grips. or endured in a great culture or people. that it actually exists in a more or less modified form to-day. from the social principles by which they govern their lives. without further enquiry. without referring to the monstrous fraud of Russian Communism.p. This also is nonsense. For. the wise man. and in order to do this we must be quite clear regarding what is happening. and that it is quite impossible entirely to separate their backwardness and their settled inferiority in the hierarchy of races. 32 the right of individual ownership that has provoked expropriation and partial Communism. This is nonsense. there must be an enormous deal in the present institution of private property which is both foul and indefensible. as Aristotle insists.question. Thus Capitalism and Communism are now at each other's throats. that if the definition of capitalism given above is even approximately just and fair. in a number of backward races. in this matter. can reply that. He will truthfully assert that he knows of no single instance of communal ownership having either created a great culture or people. as in others. Capitalism is a condition in which the best administrator of property in excess of a man's physical and professional needs. will turn to experience. it is no longer any good trying to harden the right of private property either philosophically or legally. and that in its purely social and political aspects Christianity was merely one of these reactions. He can reply more or . is assumed to be the person who happens adventitiously to be in possession of it. the wise man. if we wish to save our civilization. to find a way out of this absurd duel between these two forms of nonsense. Even to the plea that Communism has never been tried and that to condemn it untried is philosophically unsound. because it must be evident. Furthermore. in both the international and intranational sense. On the other hand.
And Communism could not fairly allow you to do this. for a bondage that harmonizes with them 1 — unless you can choose your road. First of all. your path. following Aristotle. whichever side wins.e. You cannot be free if you do not possess the instruments. Too anxious to establish the axiomatic nature of the right of private property. the result is bound to be the re-enthronement of some tragic piece of buffoonery. let us see what there is to be said for private ownership. and in public services. You cannot be free if the overseer of a Communistic State determines your occupation for you. If we feel in the least entitled to regard ourselves as adults in the historical sense. and all to no purpose. In the wider sense. that wherever he sees the principle of Communism applied.less as Aristotle did to Plato. both in the detailed and wider sense. if such it ever can have. the philosophers do not help us much. And yet upon this . 33 illusive and most undiscoverable kind.p. it is surely time that we became perfectly conscious and directed our footsteps on a conscious plane. What then should be the attitude of the modern thinking man towards this ridiculous controversy? It is no longer either good policy or good humanity to rely on the trial and error method or on blind chance or emotion for the solution of this problem. (You cannot be free if you have to share one pair of boots with another man. no criterion by which we can determine its sanctity. to rely any longer on this process of blind and automatic adjustment. We cannot afford at this stage in our evolution to be unconscious to the extent of becoming again the sport of circumstances. and above all chronic dereliction of duty in all ranks and departments. they have given us no guidance. in every country.p. i. and. in Government offices and works. . you cannot be free. he sees waste. has already led to terrible bloodshed — it is unfortunately chiefly over nonsense that blood is shed — and is likely to do so again. from one good institution into a bad institution. no matter how highly civilized. They have not helped us to distinguish between private property that is sacred and private property that is profane. unnecessary multiplication of staffs. Capitalism and Communism. inefficiency. as Lenin and Trotsky once had to do during their exile in Paris. persistent extravagance of the most . at liberty to exchange a bondage incompatible with your highest impulses. 6. gross overlapping of duties.) (b) It is the first pre-requisite for the exercise and development of taste. or tools of the craft you wish to practise. For reasons that have been explained. Past experience and the common verdict of mankind points to private ownership as a desirable institution for the following reasons: (a) It is the first pre-requisite of individual freedom. Because. in the case of Feudalism. 34 distinction the conscious modification of our institutions must turn. But this absurd controversy between these two forms of nonsense. All too clearly we have seen the consequences of past generations having allowed themselves unconsciously to drift from one institution to another. daily and hourly robbery of the national exchequer.
1921. however. too.) (d) It is essential for purposeful leisure. literature. to make a voluntary renunciation of wealth — hence the creative work done by monks. some power of arranging one's own life. than to be dependent. some experience of the regrettable results of a wrong arrangement. Against this it may be argued that imprisonment. hospitality. (Not every one can live so completely in the spirit as to be indifferent to material rewards. however. as in Feudal times. provides leisure. or make 1 In a society attaching responsibilities to wealth. explains the high achievements in human. they should be expected. patronage.p. and even in the case of literary production. which is the chief use to which prison leisure can be put. productive leisure. This. (3) It is pleasurable. requires a certain minimum age limit. it is more pleasurable to be independent. But. parasitical and fettered. there is a very long list of objections. as already pointed out. there may be men who wish to escape these responsibilities in order to use leisure for the solution of problems not connected with the active life about them — chemical. some 1 A full explanation of this antithesis will be found in my False Assumptions of Democracy (Heath Cranton. and. In the same manner. would imply the existence of suitable institutions for their reception.) (c) It is the first pre-requisite in the formation of character and the practice of self-discipline. . metaphysics. (To the best average natures. . This. (1) It is economically superior (communal undertakings.) (e) The less important but fairly obvious features of private property. 1 (Purposeful leisure. in the case of men like Raleigh. beneath which the experience of life necessary for useful writing can hardly be expected. It is not everyone whose artistic inspiration can ennoble. . Chapter IV). it limits choice in the use of purposeful leisure. cannot be meant seriously. historical research.) But against this catalogue of virtues. self-supporting and free. I suggest. are necessary to self-discipline. in that case. 35 control over self to avoid these results. Bunyan. spiritual and material products of those peoples who have held private ownership to be a right. tend to become "circumlocutionary"). etc.(Taste is discrimination in choice. being the means of creative thought. Cervantes and Oscar Wilde.p. biological. 36 him forget. a state of parasitism. and this liberty and power presuppose some lasting control of material circumstances. (2) It promotes and preserves the nobler side in human nature — generosity.) (4) To the man of average intellect and to the classes beneath him. (Some liberty of action. The fact of being incarcerated imposes certain unchosen conditions even upon the man who requires only a pen and paper. is in itself a creation of private property. which make it desirable are. and you cannot choose unless you can command circumstances. it is a very important condition of energetic and ambitious activity. This you cannot do without a modicum of independence secured by private property. This objection. and some certainty that one will enjoy the consequences of one's arrangement. are essential to the moulding of character.
and unwisely and mischievously bequeathed after death. but the very justifiable suspicion that under the capitalistic regime it may in an occult form be almost the rule. makes Capitalism intolerable to all those who can only acquiesce in the power of man over man. it is frequently unwisely. and that in capitalistic societies there is no means of tracing where it is bad and where it is good. or to extend. (d) It is also used to desecrate the sacred possession of leisure. not accruing to the advantage of the community at large — all of which transactions can be carried through quite successfully by a gangrenous. being slaves by nature. it is divorced from any function or sense of duty.(a) Private property makes acquisitiveness. greed and rapacity possible. viciously administered. so that in time people forget the contribution made by all to their individual property. as all these infirmities are human. on the cornering of markets.) (g) In capitalistic societies. inhuman power over one's fellows. all-too-human. The vulgar and all those who. patriotism or even common honesty. overfed cripple being carried about in a litter all day. the expropriation of private property indiscriminately by means of taxes. cupidity. bedridden cripple at one end of a telephone. year out. good health. (b) Through (a) private property tends to accumulate in a few hands. when both the subordinate and the community as a whole benefit from the relationship. (The spectacle of a degenerate. as it is too often assumed to be. good taste.p. able-bodied and wholesome men who sacrifice their best to him. and . on valuta transactions. But the fact that it may be bad. year in. so that it becomes a right without a function or duty. great intellectual gifts. Power over men is not necessarily bad. and. under the very eyes of the disinherited. cannot be their own masters. (c) Having accumulated. that it is often profane before it reaches the hands of its owner. (h) In capitalistic societies it also leads to the exercise of an anonymous. would be nauseating enough as an exception. (e) As an institution it tends gradually to harden the sense of possession. You might just as well try to rid the . rates and exhortations to charity. and does not necessarily collect where virtue or human desirability is most conspicuous. moreover. make leisure appear ridiculous and purposeless. and bring it into contempt under the very eyes of the disinherited. (f) In capitalistic societies it can be acquired in vast quantities in so many ways that have no connexion with either diligence. they cannot be conjured away merely by a profound Liberal or Socialist faith in the essential goodness of mankind. (Profits on stock and share transactions. on forward buying of commodities or currencies. makes Capitalism peculiarly nonsensical and vulnerable.) It is no remedy of these vices to retain a central Government and to continue. 37 speculative deals of various kinds. which is absurd. by six stalwart.
without retaining the best. of the same claims and rank. and certain irresponsible methods of earning or bequeathing property might be stopped. But never since the Feudal System has there been any attempt to discriminate between which of two men. It only becomes bad if it is indiscriminately granted. and if those who have the greatest interest in defending and maintaining it do not set to and purge it of its foulness. . its abuses. Because wealth. and is preparing the rich for the axe of Communism. Society has achieved the curtailment of power by rough and sweeping methods in the past. plus certain additional penalties and constraints imposed indiscriminately on all capitalists. that they must necessarily deprive humanity of an enormous amount of valuable guidance and service. It seems to me. . and we have seen kings and hereditary legislators stripped of their prerogatives. Nor is it enough vaguely to demand the control of capital as the Chinese did over two thousand years ago. The institution of private property is being assailed on all sides. And yet it is precisely the curse of sweeping and indiscriminate limitations and restrictions. in certain hands may be extremely desirable. to take from its owner. 39 But in order to discriminate. so centralized government in this country has made the functionalization of independent riches impossible. It is not generally realized that just as Louis XIV. without the risk of committing sacrilege. and its absurdities. Because by control. this task will be undertaken very much more brutally and vandalistically by their opponents. because they are always based upon measures calculated to rule out the worst type. therefore. It is by a mere fiction of law and habit that it ever acquired . we must have some criterion of worth. when some discrimination should and must be exercised regarding this matter of society's acquiescence in the retention of power.p. For instance. property that no one would dare. accumulations beyond a certain figure might be prohibited. so that all that would happen would be the continuation of the status quo ante. that the time has come. by his centralisation of the government of France. But this would be leaving things as bad as ever. should be allowed to seize power. But if we are ever to speak of and recognize such a thing as sacred property — that is to say.population of its plethoric individuals by bleeding the whole nation. even very great wealth. the modern world would understand Parliamentary control by means of restrictive or Puritanical legislation. — how are we to distinguish it from that which is profane? What shall be our test? We have seen that there is nothing either in history or philosophy to justify our calling any property in excess of the individual's physical and professional needs sacred at all. Besides all such methods are merely half-hearted concessions to Communism and indicate a confusion of two principles. 38 defunctionalized his noble sand prepared the block on which they were to be beheaded. Power is not bad in itself. For there is no longer any time to lose.p.
whereas he may acquire it honestly or even diligently. and in a way not injurious to the public. Because to attempt to set a limit to the actual amount a man may possess. taking up this argument. this should be a factor in the method of controlling it. The quantitative test is also useless. On the other hand. The policy of taxation and confiscation is built on this nonsense. St. and that a bad administrator should be separated from . now. in view of the infinite diversity of men. its owner may administer it badly. which it establishes in society. this momentary ill is amply compensated by the steady prosecution of the rule. with the alternative of justifying private ownership and of cleansing it of its foulness. is that they can be transferred without suffering any loss or alteration. the transference of property without actual loss or gain to that property is inconceivable. no thinking man would ever deny that it may be sacrosanct. "Though in one instance. if we may suppose it to be always possible to determine the value of property in a given community. But whereas it may be difficult to determine the quality of administration precisely it cannot be as difficult to determine the value of property in a given community. but that the public was the sufferer. It is the direst nonsense to suppose that property does not either suffer a loss or register a gain by being transferred. let us suppose the transfer of two kinds of goods — a child's toy and a . and it is curious to find a philosopher as perspicacious as Hume . followed by Wyclif. he refused to allow isolated cases of this kind to weigh with him.p. Augustine's test should be ruthlessly applied. and that if private property is to be controlled at all. to be good administration. and by the peace and order. suggested that the test should be the quality of administration. that St. is to assume that no man can be a good administrator of property over a certain amount — obviously a daring and unjustifiable assumption. To take two extreme and obvious examples of what is meant. 41 generally is denying that it is nonsense. as we are. and to confiscate the balance. Augustine.p. Being desirous above all to defend the sanctity of private property as such. Surely. It seems to me imperative. But as a test is it clear enough? Is it proof against looseness of interpretation? I venture to doubt it. 40 his wealth. therefore." But Hume had not reached our present position. however. agreed that for a wise and just man to restore a fortune to a miser or a seditious bigot was a just and laudable act. Truth to tell. Because. as many legislators have done in the past. however. "the public be a sufferer. The qualification for continued possession ought. it must also be possible to compute the loss or gain that a certain lot of property would register by the mere act of transferring it from one owner to another. in fact definitely stating that the characteristic of what he terms "external" goods. He was not faced.any odour of sanctity. Hume. or of losing it as an institution." he said. How are we to tell? How could any tribunal tell? The test of how it was acquired cannot always be relied upon.
whereas the poor are not equipped to hold sacred property. there is no such differentiation. the rich are so equipped. perhaps a brief outline of its possible practical application may not be without interest. This task will hardly be accomplished unless we can solve the problem of organizing society once more upon a basis of mutual loyalty and obligation. however. we should conclude that nothing a man owns. according to this. beyond his physical and professional needs. Thus the task of the future is undoubtedly to elevate the institution of private ownership above present day standards. security and service. which is surely capable of being registered. the fundamental difference between the poor and the rich would be that. or even to a less wise owner than the first. Even to transfer it to a child less imaginative and less resourceful than its first owner.wise man's fortune. Government will have to be decentralized and much of the freedom and absoluteness now traditionally associated with private ownership will have to be abolished along lines utterly at variance with Communism and Socialism. And. of duty and responsibility bound up with benefit. except the individuals despoiled. its value must depreciate. Now if the first is transferred to an adult it is obvious that its whole value will be wiped out at one stroke. will lead to an appreciable decline in value. On the same principle. what is more.p. since to drop the subject at this point may leave many readers wondering how the above criterion and test of proprietary right is to be applied in practice. as in the best days of Feudalism it was difficult and onerous to be a leader. everyone is in a position of honour. . In a healthy state. the problem is really beyond the scope of this essay. Clearly then. apart from suggesting that. but everybody knows that in ninety-nine per cent of cases the poor could now take over the incomes of thousands of the rich without any appreciable loss to anything or anybody. and therefore to make it as difficult and onerous to be rich. Nevertheless. and. the crucial test of whether property in excess of a man's physical and professional needs is sacred or profane. 7. Thus. if the wise man's fortune be transferred to a gambler or drunkard. But. To-day. in a properly organized community. only those should be poor from whom property can be removed without either loss to the property itself or to the community. to create a wealthy class whose property. over and above their physical needs would really be sacred according to the definition given above. in order to achieve this end. . Not only the Communists and Socialists. 42 On the same principle. culminate in a loss to the community at large. the rich should be those from whom property cannot be removed without loss both to the value of the property and to the community. is really sacred property unless its removal from him involves such irreparable loss. so that from the lowest to the highest in the land. should be to discover whether its removal from him will involve irreparable loss or actual gain to the property itself and ultimately to the community.
Severity in punishing those of their class who failed in noblesse oblige. This is seen in the merchant and trade Guilds of the Middle Ages. and for the lack of a body that could exercise either. Chapter VIII. they have sunk to the level of mere titled capitalists. the legal and the medical professions. as I have already pointed out. would undoubtedly have served the aristocracy of England in very good stead. or could have sunk so quickly. the most conspicuous being the body represented by the peers of England. by the removal of the latter from its owner. who have a certain reputation. in the sense of free private . in this respect. and in such services as the Army and the Navy. or who failed even to reach a necessarily high standard of service and conduct. it is obvious. But. because they know best how the prestige and power of their corporation are to be maintained. a certain standard of service. and ruthlessness in ejecting from it any who brought discredit upon the class as a whole. Difficult. as the problem will undoubtedly be. it is most improbable that it would ever have sunk to its present position of impotence and insignificance in the legislature of the country. and certain common interests to maintain and protect. 1 possessed a Watch Committee in any way resembling the Venetian 1 See my Defence of Aristocracy. generally speaking. therefore. was undoubtedly largely responsible for the exceptionally long endurance of that aristocracy's rule. 43 If the proof of proprietary right lies in the irreparable loss that would accrue both to the community and to the property itself. if personal wealth. it is clear that those most ready jealously to guard the prestige and standards of an order are usually the men who belong to it. the rule is usually observed. . 44 Council of Ten. From our knowledge of all corporations and bodies of men. And. but of members of the body concerned. As to the constitution of the tribunal. Members of these Guilds exercised vigilance over their fellow-members in order to maintain both the prestige of the body and the quality of its service. the history of human institutions does not leave us in any doubt. and by insisting on a certain standard of performance among the Venetian aristocracy. it might be repeated any number of times all over the country. we find tribunals in existence for checking or eliminating undesirable elements in the system. and we find these tribunals consisting not of a state-paid judge and a jury. Though its constitution would everywhere be the same. There would be no need of a central tribunal. that some sort of tribunal would have to be constituted to examine the question of transfer and to decide it. Within the Church. in the first place. the peers of England seem traditionally to have been incapable of the most elementary measures for their self-preservation. There are exceptions to this rule. it nevertheless seems to me inevitable that.p. except where great stupidity and blindness have operated as obstacles. Had the English aristocracy..p. A similar vigilance on a much higher plane was also exercised by the Council of Ten in Venice. which by ensuring the proper discipline of that body.
p. the rich approach the matter with the firm. So much for the tribunal. It needs only courage and determination. if they feel themselves constitutionally and mentally incapable of ruling out of their order. wealth should become honourable merely as a means. it seems ridiculous to argue that the thing is not practicable. finally. And since it must be either this. 46 will also have to be subject to examination by the competent tribunal. and the lines along which such an examination should be prosecuted. and they can only do what the Lords did during the nineteenth century — await their gradual demise with calm and resignation. it will be necessary to decentralize much of the present government administration. in order to functionalize the wealthy once more. All normal transfers of property brought about by death or gift . by their own deliberate act. Almost all that can be said about it has already been said in the previous section. will have to constitute the tribunal entrusted with exercising the disciplinary functions within the order. the wealthy themselves. middle-class resolve of having nothing whatsoever to do with any undertaking that promises to be in the least bit unpleasant. and the inevitability of its advent should matters be allowed to drift. It is as practicable as anything is practicable that is really and earnestly desired. From being honourable only as an end in itself. 45 Council of Ten. In any case. irrespective of whether the previous owner had or had not maintained the standards of his order. And. on the other hand. and also to suppress a number of public services now financed and administered from one centre. more particularly as those who undertake this task will have the whole world of small possessors.ownership of property beyond physical and professional needs. and among the values to be transvalued — really a simple matter in these days of the Press and the wireless. it should become a path to responsibility and difficulty. If. From being only a quantitative distinction. then it seems to me that their case is hopeless. however.p. down to the man whose only wealth is a gold watch. they appreciate the gravity of the alternative. As regards the circumstances which will call for an examination of any claim to proprietary right. simply because perchance he or she is such a pleasant person and has not been guilty of a sexual crime. this is a matter of a new organization and new values. From being a path merely to pleasure and ostentation. In the first place. A transvaluation of values would quickly follow any such changes. . when few know how constantly their values are being transvalued for them — are chiefly those relating to wealth and its prestige. but a transvaluation of values as a first step would also very greatly expedite them. to support them. a man or woman who was yesterday playing golf with them. is to be maintained as an institution. it cannot be argued that it is any less practicable than the . or hunting with them. it seems as if there were yet time to save the institution of private property. or anything really shameful from the sex-phobia standpoint. If. it should become a qualitative one. who are those chiefly concerned about maintaining its prestige and power. or Communism.
he could appeal and suggest a richer man as a substitute. therefore. or haphazard decentralization. relating especially to the conditions of efficiency imposed on certain owners of agricultural land. for I know of a political movement already on foot. unconscious. into one of conscious and ordered decentralization. 47 the information is already working. we can see the machinery for effecting this at work every day.from being a weapon for eccentricity and unrelatedness. If we are now able to record innumerable examples of disintegration as having recently taken place not only in the constitution of the Empire. It only requires a policy of conscious. . It cannot be said that the human material in youth and brains is lacking for carrying through these reforms and making a success of them. is anticipated by innumerable customs and practices that have operated in the past. the first man could challenge him to change fortunes. or proved to have thus failed. as it is left to-day. It would be unreasonable. would introduce an apparently new principle. the wireless and modern literature. in regard to these reforms and changes. and relatedness. and can appreciate its results in a thousand and one changes in purely standardized opinions. The examination of wealthy people suspected of having failed to attain to the required standards. If the latter refused to undertake the obligation.p. and still continue to operate in certain parts of the world. but this. this means that a natural. deliberate and thoughtful control. and to the conscious and deliberate transvaluation of values as opposed to the haphazard transformation of standardized opinion which is now practised by Fleet Street. Nor would a new principle be introduced by the suggested examination of all normal transfers of property. . implying that with the substitute's fortune he would be in a position to shoulder the burden. instead of leaving it. 48 which is undoubtedly committed to decentralization as opposed to disintegration. that is to say. If a man felt he had been unjustifiably called upon to take a liturgy. to the mercy of every chance influence and power that happens for a moment to turn the wheels. All that is needed is to get conscious and ordered control of the machinery available for the purpose. it should become an instrument of order. but also in that of Great Britain itself. 1 In regard to the transvaluation of values also. to argue that they are impracticable is to be blind to what is already taking place at the present moment. therefore. seeing that the machinery for acquiring . uncontrolled and haphazard process of decentralization is already in operation merely as the result of a policy of drift. the films. their success is really regarded as important. too. and the incidence of death duties already acts (indiscriminately it is true) in diverting a large proportion of wealth thus normally transferred from the legatee intended by the testator to some other destination not intended by the testator. to turn this process of disintegration. Again.p. if. 1 A practice not unlike the forcible transfer of property suggested here also existed in ancient Athens. normality. to argue that a transvaluation of values is impracticable.
if the advantages it presents are as great as I have claimed. then it seems to me that unless those who are in possession of wealth to-day are cynical enough to cry. to purge both of the foulness they undoubtedly contain. in order to save the institution and their class.It is idle. "Après nous le déluge!" and unless they are too listless or masochistic to care what happens to them. for the possessors of wealth to-day any longer to cry "Impossible!" to recommendations of this nature. even if the present recommendations prove unacceptable. and if there is such a thing as the sanctity of private property which is to be found in the conditions I have described. Nor can they indefinitely put off the day. is already so firmly entrenched that time can only help to establish it. and the alternative policy of Communism and high taxation. therefore. For the danger is imminent. they will be bound. If private property as an institution is worth saving at all. . and to set up some kind of machinery that will prevent them from becoming polluted in the future. hoping merely to prolong the status quo until at least the end of their own or their children's generation.
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