Like all rights, the right to property protects individual freedom of action. Property rights do not guarantee success in the pursuit of material values, only that one will own what one earns. There is no right to material values that have to be provided by others, in violation of their rights.
The right to property is the right to gain, keep, use, and dispose of material values without physical compulsion, coercion, or interference by other men (neither criminals nor governments). Because human beings are physical organisms, every life-sustaining action they take has a material dimension. Land, buildings, and material objects of all kinds are the means by which people live. Without property rights, no other rights are possible—including the rights to life and liberty.
Because the right to property is a principle, it applies universally to every human being. Therefore, one person’s property rights never infringe on another’s, and there is no need to “balance” conflicting rights. It is the task of objective law to define the individual’s rights so as to protect everyone’s right to produce and dispose of material values.
Q&A with Ayn Rand
- Is there a distinction between property rights and “human rights”?
“Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that ‘human rights’ are superior to ‘property rights’ simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of ‘human.’”
“This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual
“When you consider socialism, do not fool yourself about its nature. Remember that there is no such dichotomy as ‘human rights’ versus ‘property rights.’ No human rights can exist without property rights. Since material goods are produced by the mind and effort of individual men, and are needed to sustain their lives, if the producer does not own the result of his effort, he does not own his life. To deny property rights means to turn men into property owned by the state. Whoever claims the ‘right’ to ‘redistribute’ the wealth produced by others is claiming the ‘right’ to treat human beings as chattel.”
“The Monument Builders,” The Virtue of Selfishness
Jobs, food, clothing, recreation(!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values—goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?
If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.
Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.
No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as “the right to enslave.”
A right does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort. . . .
The right to property means that a man has the right to take the economic actions necessary to earn property, to use it and to dispose of it; it does not mean that others must provide him with property.
- How important are property rights?
“The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible, Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”
“It is only on the basis of property rights that the sphere and application of individual rights can be defined in any given social situation. Without property rights, there is no way to solve or to avoid a hopeless chaos of clashing views, interests, demands, desires, and whims.”
“The Cashing-In: The Student ‘Rebellion,’” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
- What is the relevance of property rights to identifying the essential nature of social systems?
“Observe that both ‘socialism’ and ‘fascism’ involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates ‘the vesting of ownership and control’ in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government.
“Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means ‘property,’ without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property, without any of its advantages, while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility.”
“The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
“Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.”
“What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal