Sunday, 12 September 2010

Rousseau on private property

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars and murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared if some one had torn up the stakes, or filled the ditch, and cried out to his comrades; “Beware of heeding this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the ground belong to all, and the ground itself to no one”

(JJ Rousseau, ‘Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of Inequality among Men’, in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans GDH Cole. (London 1966) p. 192)

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