It is not the principle of property that must be attacked, but, on the contrary, the principle hostile to it, the principle of spoliation and plunder.
At the time of Frédéric Bastiat’s writings, the economic debate was still open on the legitimacy of private property, the alternative being the common wealth of goods and the means of production (I do not believe that the debate really exists nowadays after the socialist experiences of the 20th century but there could be a come-back since the political debate consisting in offering mana from heaven to everybody leads to it). This is when Proudhon managed to assert famously that “property is theft”, which is absurd despite its fame.
Introducing the chapter, Frédéric Bastiat reminds us of the terms of the debate and announces that the question of legitimacy is indeed crucial but also that the question has been raised because of the mistake explained in his chapter on value that consisted in confusing value and utility. He also reminds us that property is created through the effort of each one of us and that not recognising this case would be to accept the superiority of plunder over property. He admits that plunder exists but underlines in today’s quote that it is not at the source of property but is the opposite of it.
Other quotes from Private Property and Common Wealth:
Introduction – Development – Conclusion