As we move to the next one of The Ten Conservative Principles of Russell Kirk, I think that you will see why conservatives care so much about private property and resist the socialistic tendencies that move enterprise toward governmental control.
Some of you probably rent apartments. While you live in that apartment, you are subject to the rules of your landlord. Your freedom is restricted in a way that it would not be if you owned your own house. Sure, your town or city may have certain municipal laws that limit what you can do with your own property, but the main point to take away here is that you have a great deal more freedom when you own your own property. They are linked together.
You can extend this illustration to just about anything you want. Some of you might on your own small business which is part of your property. If you own the business, you can make a lot of decisions about how that business runs. If you work for somebody else, you are subject to the decisions that the company owner makes. Again, owning property like a business allows for a great deal more freedom than being a wage earner.
It is also worth considering that property ownership involves risk. If I am a farmer and I plant crops, I am going to be in a great deal of trouble if there isn’t very much produce in my fields of harvest time. Because I am the owner of the farm and am harvesting my own plants, I inherit a great deal of risk. I also receive the reward and any profits that generate from the sale of my crops. In fact, if my crops have an exceptional year, I am going to make out even better than I planned. As the owner, I not only get freedom, but I am more closely connected to the consequences of my actions.
That motivates me then to do all that I can to produce a bumper crop. Rather than showing up at a job where the paycheck comes no matter how productive or efficient I am, if it is my property, I am going to do all I can do have a favorable outcome. I don’t want to lose money. Because I am free and because I have property, I actually work harder to make that property profitable because if I don’t, no one else will. I benefit from that, but society benefits as well when I do well. I have more disposable income, for example, to purchase goods and services from other people. Their businesses benefit because my business was successful. It all comes back to the concept that if I own my property, I receive the rewards from a job well done, and I then use that to distribute wealth elsewhere.
As a result, when we think about this connection between freedom and property, it starts with a commitment to both of these ideas in tandem. You can’t meaningfully have one without the other. The conservative understands that. It is a contrast to socialism where no one has the ability to benefit from the work of his or her own hands. The benefits of private property and freedom are far superior.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the remainder of the series.