Plato and Aristotle Private Property

The Views of Plato and Aristotle

Land, Private Property, and Rent

The first writers on economics of whom we have record were concerned with land. They assumed the importance of land as a factor in production, and devoted their attention principally to the question of ownership. Plato in the Republic called for communism in land among the rulers of the State, as a means of removing sources of discontent. But sometime later in the Laws he advocated private property in land and houses because the people were not capable of managing their affairs in com­mon. Private ownership was in a sense a trusteeship held from the city, and enlargement of land holdings was distinctly for­bidden. Aristotle did not favor communism. To him private ownership, through which an individual was assured the result of his labor, seemed more likely to elicit the best efforts and the most conscientious attention to obligations. He did advocate re­strictions on the accumulation of property, mainly through limi­tations on inheritance.

Writings of the early Christians give no clear picture of what the Church held as a policy on private property in land. Some favored the communal ownership of property, others upheld communal ownership as an ideal but recognize the inability of the members generally to follow such a practice. Aquinas, the spokesman for the religious viewpoint of the Middle Ages, pre­sented able arguments in favor of private property. It was ad­vantageous because of the greater care an individual owner would take, because of the greater industry that would be exer­cised, and because it reduced friction among members of the community. Individual owners should consider their property a trust from God and be ever willing to share with others in need.