How have conservatives justified private property?

Conservatives see many positives in private property, the ownership of assets (physical goods and wealth). These include psychological, social and personal reasons.

Conservatives see many positives in private property, the ownership of assets (physical goods and wealth). These include psychological, social and personal reasons.

Private property can provide psychological advantages because it provides security. This is because property is seen as ‘something to fall back on’. This idea is particularly prominent for conservatives because they believe that the world is unpredictable and uncertain. Thus, private property gives a sense of confidence and assurance as there is a source of protection that will back individuals up in difficult times. Therefore, conservatives have advocated thrift, cautious management of money, as a virtue in itself and thus encourage private savings schemes and investments

Furthermore, private property is seen by conservatives as promoting social values. This is because those who possess property are more likely to respect the property of others due to the fact that they have a ‘stake’ in society and thus have an interest in maintaining law and order. Therefore, they are aware that property must be safeguarded from disorder and lawlessness. As a result, this attitude promotes ‘conservative’ values of respect for law, authority and social order. Neoliberals have seen things differently, however, by advocating that property reflects merit and thus does not require certain duties and obligations. Those who work hard and possess talent should acquire wealth, thus meaning that property is ‘earned’. This viewpoint has been particularly attractive for conservatives who regard the ability to accumulate wealth as an important economic incentive.

There are also personal reasons for why private property is seen as a positive thing. Conservatives believe that private property is an extension of the individual’s personality. Property is not merely external objects, valued because they are useful, but valued because they reflect something of the owner’s personality and character. The home is seen as the most intimate of possessions as it is decorated according to the tastes and needs of the owner. This is why, for conservatives, burglary is a particularly bad crime as it leads not just to a loss or damage of possessions but also to a personal violation of the individual. The socialist belief that property should be owned in common is also seen as particularly appalling because it threatens to create a completely depersonalised world.

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