Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Liberty and Human Flourishing

A new video from the Institute for Faith Work and Economics

This brings to mind a passage from Francis Wayland's Elements of Moral Science. Explaining the way God communicates to us the right to property, he first notes that our natural conscience attests to the rightness of private property. He then writes the following:

Secondly. That God wills the possess on of property, is evident from the general consequences which result from the existence of this relation. The existence and progress of s(ciety, nay, the very existence of our race, depends upon the acknowledgment of this right. Were not every individual entitled to the results of his labor, and to the exclusive enjoyment of the benefits of these results--

1. No one would labor any more than was sufficient for his own individual subsistence, because he would have no more right than any other person to the value which he had created.
2. Hence, there would be no accumulation; of course, no capital, no tools, no provision for the future, no houses, and no agriculture. Each man, alone, would be obliged to contend, at the same time, with the elements, with wild beasts, and also with his rapacious fellow-men. The human race, under such circumstances, could not long exist.

3. Under such circumstances, the race of man must speedily perish, or its existence be prolonged, even in favorable climates, under every accumulation of wretchedness. Progress would be out of the question; and the only change which could take place, would be that arising from the pressure of heavier and heavier penury, as the spontaneous productions of the earth became rarer, from in-. provident consumption, without any correspondent labor for reproduction.

4. It needs only to be remarked, in addition, that just in proportion as the right of property is held inviolate, just in that proportion civilization advances, and the comforts and conveniences of life multiply. Hence it is, that, in free and well ordered governments, and specially during peace, property accumulates, all the orders of society enjoy the blessings of competence, the arts flourish, science advances, and men begin to form some conception of the happiness of which the present system is capable. And, on the contrary, under despotism, when law spreads its protection over neither house, land, estate, nor life, and specially.during civil wars, industry ceases, capital stagnates, the arts decline, the people starve, population diminishes, and men rapidly tend to a state of barbarism (Elements of Moral Science, pp. 232-33). 

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