Property rights

Nine-Tenths of the Law

Ludwig Erhard knew a thing or two about property rights.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The restriction of freedoms, whether through terrorism or authoritarianism, threatens ownership and therefore prosperity.

  • Facts


    • The economic success of countries is fundamentally linked to legal ownership, the author argues.
    • States that do not protect private property are known to develop more poorly than those that do.
    • Terrorism threatens the protection of private property.
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The protection of private property under constitutional law is one of the basic rights in Western culture. It isn’t, as many people perhaps think, an invention of the modern capitalist form of government.

Even Aristotle knew the advantages of private ownership. The Ancient Greek philosopher, whose writings included treatises on state and government, was convinced that, through the protection of ownership, the individual could better care for assets than society.

He also wrote that economic efficiency is improved by the existence of private property. Put another way, prosperity is derived from ownership.

The validity of this conclusion can be seen in the gradual demise of communist regimes in the past three decades. The dominance of the state curbs intellectual and economic momentum. Without guaranteed protection of private ownership, the driving force for progress, growth and prosperity is lacking. Islam, by the way, is also convinced of this.

Ludwig Erhard, the father of West Germany’s post-war economic miracle, made this insight a cornerstone of his political agenda: “Prosperity for all.” The former chancellor wrote that the struggle to attain private property is a strong driver of economic production.

It is therefore a significant political goal, he said, to allow as many people as possible to accumulate private property at their own free will. One’s own home, one’s own car, one’s own vacation house are more than just the material expression of a prosperous society. They are the result of a motivated citizenry that is willing to take risks and accept responsibility.

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