To eliminate theft, we must eliminate property... wait, WHAT?

published Feb 17, 2009, last modified Jun 26, 2013

Across time, "geniuses" have proposed to abolish the concept of property in order to (among other "noble goals") get rid of theft. That's just pure folly, and here's why.

If there is no property, there is no theft. If there is property, there is theft, so it really seems the reverse is true - ie, if you think "do not steal" is a "human universal", then you should denounce property too.

Or so goes the argument.

Hehehe. Nice play on words, but no.  This argument is not even wrong.  Let's take a look at reality.

The concept of property is a verifiable human universal, like the smile that naturally appears on your face when you are happy -- even if you were born blind. Even at the tender age of two, if someone takes one of your toys away, you are likely to yell "MINE! GIVE BACK!". The human universal do not steal is merely but the practical extension of the natural desire to defend what belongs to you or friendly others.  And while it is true that some people actively seek not to own property, you don't see them liberally taking others' property, which means they recognize and respect the concept of property just as much as you and me.  Even thieves recognize it, as evidenced by the fact that they actively seek property, then either act with overwhelming force against the owners of that property, or go about their ways aided by purposeful secrecy.

It is in your human nature to own things and to maintain them under your control, just as much as it is in your nature to abhor rape or unjust violence. This recognition that some things belong to you, other things belong to others, and the universal do not steal -- a natural extension of that recognition -- is not up for debate. It simply is.  Wishing the concept of property away is not going to make human nature change.

But, just for a moment, let's cut the other argument some slack.  Let's engage in a thought experiment; let's momentarily suppose we can effectively abolish all forms of property through brain modification.  Even if we could effectively abolish ownership of property, that act still would not eliminate the referent of the word theft.  Perhaps we'd be calling theft by a different name, but the act we call theft now would still take place; the nature of the act would not have changed.

So, I hope you can see, wanting to "cure" theft by abolishing property is as asinine a solution as suggesting to kill a patient in order to "cure" him of cancer.