Private Property in Liberal Philosophy and its Catastrophic Impact on the Commons

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* Article: The Failed Metaphysics Behind Private Property: Sharing our Commonhood. By James Bernard Quilligan. Kosmos Journal, SPRING | SUMMER 2011



"This article focuses on the sacred cow of private property in liberal philosophy and politics and its catastrophic impact on the commons. Numerous liberal thinkers (mostly male) have attempted to base social systems, moral obligations and property rights in human nature using the laws of the natural universe. They share the blame for the devastation of the commons. No one has influenced the rules, institutions and concepts of modern individualism more than John Locke. It was Locke, the 17th century philosopher and political scientist, who formulated the central tenet of liberalism: that property should be organized through individual ownership by excluding others. Locke’s source code, both at the meta-level and physical level, is still driving our operating system. It repeats endlessly the ‘empirical’ story that nature intended the commons to be possessed through proprietary ownership. From the long view of social history and political philosophy, however, it’s Locke’s sacred cow of proprietary rights that has been devouring the commons, not Hardin’s hungry cattle or their poor herders." (