"Private Property rights protect the freedom of some people by denying freedom to others." Do you agree?

Essay by sileas451College, UndergraduateC, April 2004

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Capitalism is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as an "economic system based on private ownership of industry". It has come to be viewed widely by the democratic western world as a system based on individuality and freedom of rights. Or more specifically, that everyone has a right to own private property regardless of his or her background or social situation. The division of labour created by capitalism is claimed by the capitalists to be beneficial to all of society; the freedom of competition allows for products on the market to be sold to the consumer at the lowest price and at the best quality. However, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argue otherwise, claiming that bourgeois private property is the 'final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few' . For them capitalism, which is based on the right to own private property, is beneficial only to the select few capitalists - or the bourgeoisie - who reap their benefits from the exploitation of the wage earners, the proletariat.

For Marx and Engels, at least, private property rights protect the freedom of some but not only deny the freedom, but results in the exploitation, of many others.

To understand this argument we must first look at the basis of Marx's theory. Marx strongly believed that capitalist society consisted of two classes, the bourgeoisie, or the ruling class, and the proletariat, who are the exploited class:

"To maintain its own existence private property must also maintain the existence of the property - less working class needed to run the factories. The proletariat is compelled, however, to abolish itself on account of its miserable condition. This will require the abolition of private property...