Why private property is important

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why private property is important

Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities.[1] Private property is distinguishable from public property, which is owned by a state entity, and from collective or cooperative property, which is owned by a group of non-governmental entities.[2]
Private property is foundational to capitalism, an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[3] The distinction between private and personal property varies depending on political philosophy, with socialist perspectives making a hard distinction between the two. As a legal concept, private property is defined and enforced by a country's political system.[4]
Ideas about and discussion of private property date back to the Persian Empire, and emerge in the Western tradition at least as far back as Plato.[5] Prior to the 18th century, English speakers generally used the word "property" in reference to land ownership. In England, "property" came to have a legal definition in the 17th century.[6] Private property defined as property owned by commercial entities emerged with the great European trading companies of the 17th century.[7]
The issue of the enclosure of agricultural land in England, especially as debated in the 17th and 18th centuries, accompanied efforts in philosophy and political thought—by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), James Harrington (1611–1677) and John Locke (1632–1704), for example—to address the phenomenon of property ownership.[8]
In arguing against supporters of absolute monarchy, John Locke conceptualized property as a "natural right" that God had not bestowed exclusively on the monarchy; the labour theory of property. This stated that property is a natural result of labor improving upon nature; and thus by virtue of labor expenditure, the laborer becomes entitled to its produce.[9]
Influenced by the rise of mercantilism, Locke argued that private property was antecedent to and thus independent of government. Locke distinguished between "common property", by which he meant common land, and property in consumer goods and producer-goods. His chief argument for property in land ownership was that it led to improved land management and cultivation over common land.
In the 18th century, during the Industrial Revolution, the moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), in contrast to Locke, drew a distinction between the "right to property" as an acquired right, and natural rights. Smith confined natural rights to "liberty and life". Smith also drew attention to the relationship between employee and employer and identified that property and civil government were dependent upon each other, recognizing that "the state of property must always vary with the form of government". Smith further argued that civil government could not exist without property, as government's main function was to define and safeguard property ownership.[9]
In the 19th century, the economist and philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883) provided an influential analysis of the development and history of property formations and their relationship to the technical productive forces of a given period. Marx's conception of private property has proven influential for many subsequent economic theories and for communistsocialist and anarchist, political movements, and led to the widespread association of private property—particularly private property in the means of production—with capitalism.
Legal and real world aspects

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