A recently published book by Rowan Moore, Property: The Myth That Built the World, argues that, while private property might benefit individuals, it is ultimately harmful to society. The book’s description on Amazon states that the book “offers hope for how things could be better, with reform that might enable the social wealth of property to be returned to society.”

Because I have not read the book and have no intention of doing so, I do not know what “evidence” Moore offers for his thesis. However, it is clear from the book’s description that the author’s concept of property is flawed.

Property is created when the resources provided by nature are transformed into human values. While many people may be involved in that transformation, it is individuals—and specifically individual minds—that discover how to make that transformation possible. Through thought and physical effort, individuals, not society, create property.

As Ayn Rand correctly noted,

We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.

Like all collectivists, Moore regards society as some kind of super-organism that is superior to the individuals comprising society. According to collectivists, individuals do not exist for their own personal happiness but only to serve the group. According to this view, accomplishments—including the creation of human values—are not the result of individual thought and effort, but of the collective.

In all of its variants, such as socialism, communism, and fascism, collectivism seeks the elimination of private property. It subordinates individuals and their achievements to the group.

If we reject collectivism, we see society as merely a number of individuals who live and trade together. We see individuals are independent beings with a moral right to pursue their own happiness. And we see property, not as something harmful to society, but essential to enabling individuals to live happy, flourishing lives. – Brian Phillips

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