The Noblest Triumph: Property And Prosperity Through The Ages

  • Publish Date: 1998-06-01
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Tom Bethell
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What rights do we have to own & control private property (PP), secure from the intrusion of others? What is the basis of the law that secures PP for an individual? This book looks at the history of PP rights & shows that the key role played by the institution of PP has been misunderstood by Western elites for over a century. Beginning with the ancient Greeks & arriving at the present day, the book looks at basic ideas about PP found in Plato, Adam Smith, Blackstone, Bentham, Marx, Mill & others. It shows that the institution of PP is inextricably tied to traditional conceptions of justice & liberty, & it argues that prosperity & civilization can only arise where PP is securely held by the people. The phenomenal success of Western civilization and the remarkable economic expansion fueled by modern capitalism, says Tom Bethell, depend chiefly on the institution of private property and the development of secure property rights, yet this simple, striking idea is misunderstood by elite opinion leaders in the United States and around the world. Bethell, a reporter for the American Spectator, offers a history of property as an idea and a reality around the world. His sweeping narrative will appeal to fans of David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. Yet, in many crucial respects, The Noblest Triumph (the title comes from British philosopher Jeremy Bentham's line that property laws represent "the noblest triumph of humanity over itself") is better than both, displaying a keener understanding of human nature and of how incentives shape behavior. In a chapter sure to inspire controversy, Bethell argues that the Irish potato famines of the 1840s were due primarily to Ireland's lack of stable property rights in the 19th century. Full of astute observations and written with real clarity, The Noblest Triumph makes a unique and welcome contribution to the debate over why some countries thrive while others languish. --John J. Miller

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