What is Property? – Proudhon

These ideas about property are some of the founding pillars of Anarchy. It was a little dense and theoretical (even for me) so I only read part of it. If you’ve read more, please tell me if I’m missing out and I might finish it.

  • Property is Robbery
  • Is property just?
  • Other
    • Man errs because he learns
  • All a once a man appeared, calling himself the Word of God… He went about proclaiming everywhere that the end of the existing society was at hand, that the world was about to experience  new birth; that the priests were vipers, the lawyers ignoramuses, and the philosophers hyprocties and liars; that master and slave were equals, that usury and everything akin to it was robbery, that proprietors and idlers would one day burn, while the poor and pure in heart would find a haven of peace.
    This man – the Word of God – was denounced and arrested as a public enemy by the priests and the lawyers, who well understood how to induce the people to demand his death. But this judicial murder.. did not destroy the doctrinal seeds which The Word of God has sown. After his death, his original disciples travelled about in all directions, preaching what they called the good news, creating in their turn millions of missionaries; and, when there task seem to be accomplished, dying by the sword of Roman justice. This persistent agitation, the war of the executioners and martyrs, lasted nearly three centuries, ending in the conversion of the world. idolatry was destroyed, slaver abolished, dissolution made room for more austere morality, and the contempt for wealth was sometimes pushed almost to privation. society was saved by the negation of its own principles, by a revolution in its religion, and by violation of its most sacred rights. in this revolution, the idea of justice spread to an extent that had not before been dreamed ov, never to return to its original limits. thereto for justice had existed only for the masters; it then commenced to exist for the slaves.
  • when our ideas on any subject, material, intellectual, or social, undergo a through change in consequence of new observations, i call that movement of the mind revolution. if the ideas are simply extended or modified, there is only progress… So, in 1789 (French Revolution), there was struggle and progress; revolution there was none.
  • Roman law defined property as the right to use and abuse one’s own within the limits of the law.
  • Property is a right, a legal power, possession is a fact
  • if these treaties and agreements were forced by the strong upon the weak then they are null; the tacit content of posterity does not make them valid, and we live in a permanent condition of iniquity and fraud.
  • this common right of every man to what the earth produces, before it be occupied and appropriated by others, was, by ancient moralists, very properly compared to the right which every citizen had to the public theatre, where every man that came might occupy an empty seat, and thereby acquire a right to it while the entertainment lasted; but no man had a right to dispossess another.
  • they did not foresee, these old founders of the domain of property, that the perpetual and absolute right to retain one’s estate, – a right which seemed to them equitable, because it was common, – involves the right to transfer, sell, give, gain, and lose it; that it tends consequently, to nothing less than the destruction of that equality which they established it to maintain.
  • not only does occultation lead to equality, it prevents property. for, since every man, from the fact of his existence, has the right of occupation, and, in order to live, must have material for cultivation on which he may labor; and since, on the other hand, the number of occupants varies continually with the births and deaths, – it follows that the quality of material which each laborer my claim varies with the number of occupants; consequently, that occupation is always subordinate to population. finally, that, inasmuch as possession, in right, can never remain fixed, it is impossible, in fact, that it can ever become property.
    every occupant is, then, necessarily a possessor or usufructuary, – a function which excludes proprietorship. now, this is the right of the usufuctuary: he is responsible for the thing entrusted to him; he must use it in conformity with general utility, with a view to its preservation and development; he has no power to transform it, to diminish it, or to change its nature; he cannot so divvied the usufruct that another shall perform the labor while he receives the product. in a word, the usufucturoy is under the supervision of society, submitted to the condition of labor and the law of equality.
  • all have an equal right of occupancy.
    the amount occupied being measured, not by the will, but by the variable conditions of space and number, property cannot exist.