Private Property

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Historically, democracy has only succeeded in countries where people had private property and where the right to own property led to the existence of middle classes, or "bourgeoisie".

Societies with the right to private property provide each individual with an immediately discernible reason to work and cooperate with others to improve his or her own situation. The right to increase one's private property, and the trade that occurs as a consequence of that, also builds the strongest economy and contributes to the vision of a better future. This vision is a prerequisite for democracy - why else would one get involved in politics?

But cooperation and trade do not only create wealth. They also contribute toward a common interest in securing the best circumstances for even more trade and more wealth. This can, of course, lead to greed, deceit, and economic oppression. But it can also lead to an increased focus on peace and stability and on the forming of legislation that benefits as many people as possible. Legislation can be instrumental in this by ensuring that the same rules apply for everybody and by ensuring punishment to people who act dishonestly or disruptively. The desire to make legislation equal for everybody is usually dependent on everybody having the opportunity to have their say when the laws are passed. A healthy democracy does not automatically evolve out of a healthy economy, but a healthy economy with trade and the vision for a better future and better laws, is part of the foundation for democracy.

Without private property

Communism (which eliminates the right to private ownership of the means of production) also subsumes a vision for a better future. The big difference in democratic terms is that a political system which secures the right to private property and the opportunity for each individual to improve their situation also gives the individual a number of incentives to participate in the economy and in society in general. Communism does not give each individual immediate benefits. Communism only promises better circumstances once the entire system has been through a revolution and the right to private property has been eliminated.

Next chapter: A Working Population