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which never ought to be property, and absolute property where only a qualified property ought to exist. They have not held the balance fairly between human beings, but have heaped impediments upon some, to give advantages to others; they have purposely fostered inequalities, and prevented all from starting fair in the race. That all should indeed start on perfectly equal terms, is inconsistent with any law of private property; but if as much pains as has been taken to aggravate the inequality of chances arising from the natural working of the principle, had been taken to temper that inequality by every means not subversive of the principle itself; if the tendency of legislation had been to favor the diffusion, instead of the concentration of wealth, to encourage the subdivision of the large masses, instead of striving to keep them together; the principle of individual property would have been found to have no real connection with the physical and social evils which have made so many minds turn eagerly to any prospect of relief, however desperate.
It is, at the same time, undeniable that an increasing power of coöperation in any common undertaking, is one of the surest fruits, and most accurate tests, of the progress of civilization; and we may expect, as mankind improve, that joint enterprises of many kinds, which would now be impracticable, will be successively numbered among possibilities, thus augmenting, to an indefinite extent, the powers of the species. But the proper sphere for collective action lies in the things which cannot be done by individual agency, either because no one can have a sufficiently strong personal interest in accomplishing them, or because they require an assemblage of means surpassing what can be commanded by one or a few individuals. Where individual agency is at all suitable, it is almost always the most suitable; working, as it does, with so much greater intensity of motive when the object is personal, with so much
stronger a sense of responsibility when it is public, and in either case with a feeling of independence and individual power, unknown to the members of a body under joint government.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
51. It is next to be considered, what is included in the idea of private property, and by what considerations the applicability of the principle is bounded.
The institution of property, reduced to its essential ele- mer ments, consists in the recognition, in each person, of a right to the exclusive disposal of what he or she have produced by their own exertions, or received by gift of fair agreement, without force or fraud, from those who produced it."
The foundation of the whole is, the right of producers to what they themselves have produced. It may be objected, therefore, that the institution as it now exists, recognizes nghts of property in individuals over things which they have not produced. For example, (it may be said,) the operatives in a manufactory create, by their labor and skill, the whole produce; yet instead of its belonging to them, the law gives them only their stipulated hire, and transfers the produce to some one who has merely supplied the funds, without perhaps contributing anything to the work stuell, even in the form of superintendence. The answer to this is, that the labor of manufacture is only one of the conditions which must combine for the production of the entnmodity. The labor cannot be carried on without materials and machinery, nor without a stock of necessaries VOL. 1.
provided in advance, to maintain the laborers during the production. All these things are the fruits of previous labor. If the laborers were possessed of them, they would not need to divide the produce with any one; but since they have them not, an equivalent must be given to those who have, both for the antecedent labor, and for the abstinence by which the produce of that labor, instead of being expended on indulgences, has been reserved for this use. The capital may not have been, and in most cases was not, created by the labor and abstinence of the present possessor; but it was created by the labor and abstinence of some former person, who, by gift or contract, transferred his claims to the present capitalist; and the abstinence at least must have been continued by each successive owner, down to the present. The terms of coöperation between present labor and the fruits of past labor, are a subject for adjustment between the two parties. Each is necessary to the other. The capitalist can do nothing without laborers, nor the laborers without capital. It may be said, they do not meet on an equal footing; the capitalist, as the richer, can take advantage of the laborer's necessities, and make his condition as he pleases. He could do so, undoubtedly, if he were but one. The capitalists collectively could do so, if they were not too numerous to combine and act as a body. But as things are, they have no such advantage. Where combination is impossible, the terms of the contract depend on competition, that is, on the amount of capital which the collective abstinence of society has provided, compared with the number of the laborers. If the laborers compete for employment, the capitalists on their part compete for labor, to the full extent of the circulating capital of the country. A joint administration on account of the state, would not make the fund go further, or afford better terms to the laborers, unless either by enforcing on the society collectively, greater abstinence, or by limiting more strictly the number of the laboring population. It is impossible to increase the quotient that falls to the share of each laborer, without either augmenting the dividend, or diminishing the divisor.
The right of property includes, then, the freedom of acquiring by contract. The right of each to what he has produced, implies a right to what has been produced by others, if obtained by their free consent, and without fraud; since the producers must either have given it from good will, or exchanged it for what they esteemed an equivalent, and to prevent them from doing so would be to infringe their right of property in the product of their own industry.
2. Before proceeding to consider the things which the principle of individual property does not include, we must specify one more thing which it does include ; and this is, that a title, after a certain period, shall be given by prescription. According to the fundamental idea of property, indeed, nothing ought to be treated as such, which has been acquired by force or fraud, or appropriated in ignorance of a prior title vested in some other person; but it is necessary to the security of rightful possessors, that they should not be molested by changes of wrongful acquisition, when by the lapse of time witnesses must have perished or been lost sight of, and the real character of the transaction can no longer be cleared up. Possession which has not been legally questioned within a moderate number of years, ought to be, as by the laws of all nations it is, a complete title. Even when the acquisition was wrongful, the dispossession, after a generation has elapsed, of the probably bona fide possessors, by the revival of a claim which had been long dormant, would generally be a greater injustice, and almost always a greater private and public mischief, than leaving the original wrong without atonement. It may seem hard that a claim originally just, should be defeated by mere lapse of time; but there is a time after which (even looking at the individual case, and without regard to the general effect on the security of possessors,) the balance of hardship turns the other way. With the injustices of men as with the convulsions and disasters of nature, the longer they remain unrepaired, the greater become the obstacles to repairing them, arising from the after-growths which would have to be torn up or broken through. In no human transactions, not even in the simplest and clearest, does it follow that a thing is fit to be done now, because it was fit to be done sixty years ago. It is scarcely needful to remark, that these reasons for not disturbing acts of injustice of old date, cannot apply to unjust systems or institutions; since a bad law or usage is not one bad act, in the remote past, but a perpetual repetition of bad acts, as long as the law or usage lasts.
Such, then, being the essentials of private property, it is now to be considered, to what extent the forms in which the institution has existed in different states of society, or still exists, are necessary consequences of its principle, or are recommended by the reasons on which it is grounded.
$ 3. Nothing is implied in property but the right of each to his own faculties, to what he can produce by them, and to whatever he can get for them in a fair market; together with his right to give this to another person if he chooses, and the right of that other to receive and enjoy it.
It follows, therefore, that although the right of bequest, or gift after death, forms part of the idea of private property, the right of inheritance, as distinguised from bequest, does not. That the property of a person who has made no disposition of it during his lifetime, should pass first to his children, and failing them, to his nearest relations, may be a proper arrangement or not, but is no consequence of the principle of private property. Although there belong to