Is private property theft

Pierre J. Proudhon: What is property?


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Was it ironic when Fritz J. Raddatz joined me just ordered a review of this book? Because Proudhon's answer is: "La propriété c’est le vol" - which is poorly translated as "property is theft"; the French version suggests that property and theft are synonyms. The formula had violence. It made Proudhon the protagonist of socialism in France. In June 1848, the voters of the Seine department sent him to parliament. In March 1849, the government of President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte brought him to court for "inciting hatred and contempt for the government": three years' imprisonment; but he was treated according to his literary rank. The son of a brewer and a maid received political honors.

Karl Marx initially had forbearance, later - because of Proudhon's fame in France? - only contempt for Proudhon, the "petty bourgeois". Marx in a series of articles in the Berlin newspaper "Sozialdemokrat" in 1865: "Proudhon's first word 'Qu'estce que la Propriété?' Is definitely his best. If not because of new content, at least because of his bold way of saying everything. In a strictly scientific history of political economy would hardly be worth mentioning. "

After all, Marx had prayed Proudhon for his collaboration on the Franco-German yearbooks. Proudhon said: "Let us set the example of wise tolerance in the world, but let us be careful not to be at the forefront of the movement, to make ourselves leaders of a new intelligence ... Below this Condition I will enter their community with pleasure. "He knew Marx.

"What is property?" (1840) dedicated Proudhon to the Academy of Besançon (where he was born in 1809); unsuspectingly, she had given him (1838) a three-year student pension. He wrote to a friend with relish: "The effect of my book on the academy is terrible: People write about scandal and ingratitude." The academy decided: It "formally disavows the work that was published without its request. In the event of a second edition of the book, the author should be obliged to omit the dedication". His vehement defense nevertheless made an impression: "Half of the academy laughs at the other," he wrote to a friend.

Proudhon's answer to the title of his book explains the excitement. His proofs and the conclusions from his theses are so moderate that one understands Marx's enmity. Proudhon does not accuse the owners. He wants to prove to them that they are adhering to a false theory; that property and the rights derived from it - land rent, entitlement to profit in exchange transactions, interest on loans - disturb the economic process; Crises are therefore inevitable, they are just damaging the owners. This is where contemporaries noticed. After prolonged prosperity, the bourgeoisie and workers experienced a prolonged economic crisis in 1840, which in February 1848 finally overthrew Louis Philippe and his upper-class government. Proudhon was there when the barricades were built and the Tuileries stormed - but he lamented the "senseless destruction". "You made a revolution with no idea."

His idea: like all socialists of that time, he relied on Ricardo's doctrine of "value". "The value of every commodity is determined solely by the amount of work required to produce it." When the left discovered this sentence - declared false by Marx but soon widely believed - it boldly concluded: So the product belongs to the producer. There is then no more room for profit, rent or rent. If these are raised, the worker's income is reduced; he can no longer buy what he and other workers have produced. "The owner who demands a fee or a price for the service of his instruments presupposes a fundamentally false fact, namely that the capitalists produce something by themselves, and thus receives something for nothing in payment for these imaginary products."

We could just understand that as a moral judgment. But the conclusion that the economic cycle will be disrupted is wrong. What the worker (the producer) gets less, the owner has more. Together everyone has as much as is produced, so everything can be sold (exchanged). Proudhon once again: "Products, say the economists, can only be bought through products. This aphorism is the condemnation of property. The owner who neither produces something himself nor through his instrument and receives products in exchange for nothing is either a A parasite or a robber. " So far, so good - but then Proudhon's wrong conclusion: "Accordingly, if property can exist as right, then it is impossible