Short History of Propertarianism

Propertarianism has a long, rich, and beautiful history and intellectual tradition.  In fact, the movement began to develop all the way back at the start of Western Civilization in the city states of ancient Greece.  It was in Greece, particularly Athens, where man started to develop the idea that man should be protected from the arbitrary will of government.  In addition, many Greek philosophers held to the idea that all matter had a certain specific nature that it was bound to follow.  Importantly, this idea of an inherent nature was extended to man, and thus the idea of a natural law was born.

Many of these Greek ideas are adopted by the Roman Republic, but it is not until the fall of the Empire and the rise of the feudal system of the Middle Ages when Propertarianism becomes much more developed.  The development actually came from the Catholic Church, as show by Thomas Woods in his book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.  Many great theologians, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, developed and greatly expand the natural rights doctrine that they learned from the writings of the ancient world.  Much more innovative was the Church’s teachings on economics, particularly from the school at Salamanca.  This monks developed modern economics long before Adam Smith had thought of the concepts.  Another seperate monk who developed economic theory, especially monetary theory, was Nicole Oresme. Due to the influence of the Church, these economic and philisophical theories became quite wide spread in parts of Europe allowing for the seeds of Propertarianism to be sown in the Old Continent.

It was in the coastal free cities of Medeval Europe where these ideas took their deepest roots.  The chaos of the breakup of the Roman Empire allowed for a system where government control in the cities was relatively weak.  Naturally theses cities were where the manufactures and merchants gathered, and this class was able to amass much wealth through industrial production and free trade, eventually allowing them to break away completely from the feudal lords.  Once the cities were free from the feudal lords they jealously guarded their new found liberty.  The ideology of the free cities were based on the natural rights of life, liberty, and property that the Catholic Church had made popular.  They realized it was the principles of natural law and the free market economy which gave them their freedom from governments and their prosperity.

The cities were not perfect though.  Many guilds operated like labor unions hampering the labor market and trampling the rights of individuals.  In addition, many cities fought among themselves, most notably Venice and Genoa.

Sadly though, as the feudal lords became absolute monarchs and aristocratic rule broke down, the free cities lost their independence, and this independence was replaced by a strong mercantilism regime restricting trade and progress.  But this does not mean it was the end for the liberty movement.  As the free cities started to lose their independence, a new secular trend in thinking was beginning to emerge.  It was started by John Locke and his Two Treaties on Government.  With this book the ideology of liberalism took shape, and it is thanks to liberalism, and the work it did to reduce the size and scope of government, that the Industrial Revolution occurred which has allowed for an ever increasing rise in the standard of living despite an explosion of population.

Western Europe, particularly England, was obsessed by liberalism by 1800s.  Liberalism was allowing unheard of freedoms and social mobility.  Europe produced some of its greatest thinkers.  Some of the names on this long list include: Frederic Bastiat, Lord John Acton, Jean Baptist Say, Richard Cobden, Gustave de Molinari, who gave the first thought to a propertarian society in his “The Production of Security”, and many others.  By the mid of the 19th century liberalism reached its height.

After the 1850s, Classical Liberalism has been in one long retreat.  New statist ideologies like Marx’s “scientific socialism” and all manners of interventionism gained sympathy from the people. This does not mean however that propertarian thinking went by the wayside.  The darkest yet one of the most productive times for Propertarianism was from World War I through World War II.  During this time statist activist and ideologies were what had almost all the intellectual backing.  Turn of the century Progressivism had the wide support of the people.  It was during this time that the suffrage was expanded, the direct election of senators was passed, the income tax was passed, the New Deal programs came about, Prohibition was passed, and the Federal Reserve System was created.

Despite all the darkness there was light.  Ludwig von Mises, one of the greatest economist and sociologist of the 20th century, and a small group of followers were still writing books and laying the foundations of Propertarinsim.  It is thanks to Mises, and his work like Human Action and Socialism, that we have a modern and fully developed Propertarian tradition.

Despite all of his contributions, Mises was not a complete Propertarian he was a Classical Liberal, it was his student Murray Rothbard who took this intellectual tradition to its logical conclusion.  Rothbard wrote the most complete propertarian economic treaties in his Man, Economy, and State.  He also wrote the most complete propertarian manifesto called For a New Liberty.  Rothbard was an extremely talented, well read, and productive person.  He wrote an extraordinary amount of work.  He covered many topics from a propertarian view including economics, politics, sociology, history, and even sports.

The most recent chapter in Propertarianism is the work of Dr. Hans Hermann Hoppe.  Hoppe was a student of Murray Rothbard, and some of his greatest contributions have been argumentation ethics, his constant attacks on pubic goods, and his sociological work on the state.  Hoppe has also contributed in the way of propertarian strategy most shown in his “What Must be Done”, and he has also demonstrated the importance to the right for a thick libertarianism.  To spread these ideas, Hoppe formed the Property and Freedom society which is the leading propertarian institute and think tank.

The current state of the Propertarian movement is very disorganized.  At the moment the movement is more a theoretical movement waiting to be shown to the oppressed masses.  There are so many good propertarian thinkers, writers, and activist, but what they all need is to be brought together into one organization in order to start making practical and principled change to the United States’ political landscape.  This is exactly what this website is intended to do.  It is to provide an organization to unite the propertarian movement into one united front, and to provide assistance whenever and wherever it is needed in order to educate the masses and gain political power to create the free and just society.

The purpose of this very very brief outline of propertarian history was to show that propertarianism did not simply emerge out of a vacuum nor is it a relatively new or ad hoc ideology.  It is a very rich tradition with its roots stretching back thousands of years ago, and it has been developed all the way to the present day by some of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known.