New Philosopher #09: The Property Wars

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New Philosopher is an independent quarterly magazine devoted to exploring philosophical ideas from past and present thinkers on ways to live a more fulfilling life. Commentary on New Philosopher aims to guide readers into living a happier and freer mode of existence.

In this issue: In 1754 Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the most influential thinkers leading up to the French revolution, made the bold declaration that private property was the original source of inequality in the world. A century later, French politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon proclaimed, “Property is theft!”

Today, another Gallic thinker – economist and bestselling author Thomas Piketty – is making similar claims: that the current structure of property rights is a major cause of inequality. A solution to this pervasive problem, says Piketty, would be a system of land reform that forces the ultra-wealthy to return a part of what they own each year. “It’s like a permanent revolution,” he says, “but it’s a quiet revolution because it takes place within the rule of law.”

Whatever your property position – whether you’re a renter, an owner or a property tsar – it’s difficult to deny that there’s a problem: a recent Nielsen survey revealed that 50 per cent of Australians had given up on ever owning their own home.

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