Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Guardians and Thieves

In contrast to totalitarian and other despotic regimes, democracies proclaim unqualified commitment to the principle of private property: never before have so many of the world's constitutions declared its inviolability. Reality, however, is different. The rights to property and the liberties associated with them are subverted by a variety of devices, some open and seemingly constitutional, others oblique and of dubious legality: the state, it runs out, takes even as it gives. (Since, in Plato's words, "Of whatever thing a man is a smart guardian of that he is also a smart thief.") The assault on property rights is not always apparent, because it is carried out in the name of "common good," an elastic concept, defined by those whose interests it serves.

- Richard Pipes in Property and Freedom

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