For centuries, the propensity to personal ownership has been considered one of the most elementary and natural features of human nature. Criticism of private property is nothing recent, either, but has turned out to be extremely commonplace in modern times: Communism haunts European consciences as the famous specter haunted Hamlet. But it is only the debasement of the original notion of private property that has allowed such an unnatural prejudice to grow into a tenet of (supposedly generous) human wisdom.
There are at least four elementary reasons why private property is intrinsic to men.
The first is that men, like all animals, live off what they consume, and consumption is, if anything, an appropriation. And, because men are deprived of fur and natural weapons but endowed with consciousness, it is a natural instinct for them to enclose a space to which they may safely retreat to cultivate and stock the means for their survival and that of their offspring. It is highly symbolic that Rousseau’s human beings, who, in their original natural state, supposedly lived without owning anything, were also to him solitary, speechless, brutish bums, happy only because nary a thought ever crossed their befuddled minds—hardly animals, unless depraved ones.
Second, inasmuch as freedom is of the essence of man, for any given individual, freedom means on a most elementary level enjoying some kind of independence...