Today, we’re going to take a more detailed look at one of the most important conditions that sustains humankind’s material existence – the principle of private property.
Why is it that some people spend their entire adult life depriving themselves of rest and peace trying to amass private property? We are not just talking about the poor individual, worrying how to put a meal on the table for their children the next day, we’re talking about the billionaire who has accumulated enough wealth to ensure a comfortable life for their children, their grandchildren and many more generations to come.
People will stop at nothing to amass private property. People have laboured hugely, committed despicable crimes, even risked war, all in the name of the ultimate goal of seizing resources belonging to another or protecting their own resources.
All nations have their own version of a saying about the mortality of humankind and the fact that wealth cannot be taken to the grave. Even Christ instructed us, ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…’
Why is it that for thousands of years, the words of the wise still have no real effect on humankind however reverently we might listen to them? What is it that shapes the individual’s desire to endlessly accumulate?
Many philosophers have answered this question but, unfortunately, their answers are often complex, unconvincing, and sometimes just downright incomprehensible. Reference to such works can easily be found on the internet. In our opinion, the answer ought to be something fairly plain to see.
Let us begin by establishing the role private property has played in human society. The great and unshakable principle of private property, (which most likely arose simultaneous to the emergence of monogamous marriage as far back as the stone age), has served and still serves as the material basis for the existence of individual and society.
Without the principle of the inviolability of private property, society could not develop. All historical attempts to paint private property as evil and to build a state on the principle of its negation have ended up representing an even greater evil, and led eventually to the state’s collapse.
The most vivid examples of this can be seen in the history of the Soviet Union and China, both states that have killed tens of millions of their own citizens in the name of eradicating the sanctity of private property.
Even the partial, mild form of the denial of private property that we see in the countries of the so-called people’s democracy in Eastern Europe has made these countries uncompetitive in relation to the countries of Western Europe and hence we see them lagging behind in all areas of the economy, science and culture.
Opponents of private property often cite the Israeli kibbutz as a successful example of the principle in practice. However, to live in a kibbutz, one has to give up private property, as well as sacrifice almost all personal Freedom of Choice, which is almost impossible to imagine among the Jewish people, who have such a keenly developed sense of Freedom of Choice. The kibbutz has never been especially numerous. It emerged in the difficult war years, which required a special kind of unity among the people. In recent decades, the kibbutz has begun to drop in numbers, and this trend will continue, for as long as peace lasts, albeit relative.
The same thing goes for all other types of commune that have ever existed. Even today, one still reads in the Russian press nostalgic ‘memories’ of the idyllic life that people lived in the peasant communities, which in reality turned out to be unproductive and unviable and explains why they disappeared from history.
The romantic hippy communes of the 1960s and 1970s broke up for the same reason. In all fairness, though, the hippie communes did provide their members with maximum Freedom of Choice, while the absence of private property and monogamous marriage made it almost impossible to provide for a normal future for the members’ children.
This brings us to the fundamental conclusion that private property, which most people spend their entire life trying to increase, lies at the foundation of the material existence and development of humankind!
Does this mean that in addition to the laws of Gene Preservation and Freedom of Choice, a third fundamental law exists which can be said to determine the life of humankind – the Law of Private Property? Does this mean that The Last Faith is inaccurate and even erroneous in only presenting two? Happily, the answer is no! The Last Faith remains an accurate presentation of ideas and here’s why.
On the theme of mankind’s inexhaustible desire to amass private property, including businesses and bank accounts, we should ask ourselves, ‘what do we need private property for?’
Any single, childless, mentally healthy person would agree with the sober understanding that all they really need in life is two comfortable rooms in which to live, one good car in which to travel to work, a good but not necessarily whopping great bank account in case of illness and old age, and the opportunity to travel on vacation and go to the odd concert. That’s it!
So who, then, buys apartment after apartment, car after car, tirelessly expands their business, and accumulates more and more money in the bank, or alternatively just steals and goes on stealing?
These are people who represent the absolute majority of adult society: these are people with children, or put simply, parents.
Why do they do it? Let’s take an honest look at ourselves. We do it because we want to transfer all our property to our children because we cannot foresee what the future holds for them.
We want to believe that the more we leave them, the greater their chances of survival. And when we have managed to provide for our children, we want to be sure of providing for our grandchildren, and so on.
Look at how the presidents of non-democratic states steal. By stealing millions, even billions, it is as if they want to provide for their descendants for 100 generations to come. What they do not understand is that this is in fact impossible! Great wealth deprives one of reason. Recently, the press reported that the daughter of the former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, the ‘socialist’ guardian of the people, was the richest woman in the country, enjoying a multi-billion-dollar fortune.
Of course, some will argue that not everyone is like this. There are others like Bill Gates, for example, who bequeathed his billions to charity, and other billionaires are following in his footsteps. There have always been individuals like this and there always will be.
But who are they? They are the kind of people we are always talking about, people with Unlimited Freedom of Choice, people capable of going beyond the greatest human instinct, the instinct for Gene Preservation. We are constantly pointing out that these individuals are extremely small in number. Just take a look at their biographies. As a rule, the life of these people before they became rich was associated with a great deal of intellectual, and, therefore, spiritual work. It should be added also, that while donating their basic resources to charity, they do not leave their own children without means. That is to say, they are quite normal.
Bill Gates’s charity movement will, of course, inspire and attract more and more members. But we should not be deluded into thinking that this number will ever include any great portion of the society. Very few are really capable of going beyond the Law of Gene Preservation…
Conclusion: The aspiration that sits within us, often unrestrained, to accumulate private property emerges entirely from the Law of Gene Preservation and does not symbolise anything fundamentally new. So, The Last Faith, which holds to the principle that there are two, and only two, fundamental laws that govern human behaviour remains true for now!
Karmak Bagisbayev, professor of mathematics, author of “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”