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The idea of property

A Paper given to the Henry George Foundation March 2012

In Chapter VI of The Science of Political Economy, entitled ‘Cause of Confusion as to Property’, Henry George asks why John Stuart Mill was so confused about the basis of property.

He replies that: “It is evidently the same thing that has prevented all the scholastic economists, both those who preceded and those who have succeeded him, from giving any clear and consistent statement of the laws of distribution or the origin of property. This is a pre-assumption they cannot bring themselves to abandon – the pre-assumption that land must be included in the category of property and a place found in the laws of distribution for the income of landowners. Since natural law can take no cognizance of the ownership of land, they are driven in order to support this pre-assumption to treat distribution and property as matters of human institution only.” (p. 460)

The full paper is available for download on this web site: [download]