Property and Freedom Arnold Publications Series - Property and Freedom Property, asserts Richard Pipes, is an indispensable ingredient not only of economic progress but also of liberty and the rule of law. In his new book, the Harvard scholar demonstrates how, throughout history, private ownership has served as a barrier to the power of the state, enabling the Western world to evolve enduring democratic institutions. However, he warns that contemporary trends in the treatment of property in a century that, he suggests, has been unfavorable to the institution threaten to undermine the rights of citizens. And he makes clear why he believes that excessive interference by government, even when intended to promote the common good, could lead to a diminution of freedom. Renowned Sovietologist Pipes (The Russian Revolution, etc.) offers a powerfully argued coda to the Cold War triumph of capitalism. Private property, his thesis runs, is a prerequisite for the development of liberal, democratic legal and political systems. The books central comparison of 17th century England with patrimonial Russia provides a potent argument in support of this assertion. The emergence of private estates in England required a legal system, while the czars ruled by decree; dependent on estate holders for revenue, the English Crown convened parliaments, while the czars required obligatory state service from Russian landowners. British citizens ability to accumulate wealth, backed by common law, resulted in modern capitalist democracies. Not surprisingly, Pipes has little patience with socialist ideals and with what he sees as their penchant for artificially imposed equality. He explicitly states that what a man is, what he does, and what he owns are of a piece, so that an assault on his belongings is an assault also on his individuality and his right to life. As Pipes takes Rousseau and Marx to task for their attacks on property, some readers will be put off by his untempered vehemence. While Pipes begrudgingly concedes that the reformist demands of various social movements have placed valuable checks on the unfettered accumulation of property, his message is most clear when he states human beings must have in order to be. (May) Pipes (history, Harvard U.) demonstrates how, throughout history, private ownership has served as a barrier to the power of the state, enabling the Western world to evolve enduring democratic institutions. He shows how England, as the first country to treat land as a commodity and to develop a robust defense of property rights, also became the first country to institute a parliamentary government capable of restraining the powers of royalty, and describes attitudes toward property of 20th century totalitarian states. (booknew.com) ...[A] principled [defense] of property rights....a surprising and splendid book....[Pipes tackles] a topic that is both sprawling and politically charged....a topic that should be front and center in the American political debate. In Pipes' view, despite the vanquishing of Communism, liberty's future...is still at peril, although from a different and novel source. The main threat to freedom today comes not from tyranny but from equality....an exercise in dyspepsia that is not interested in...difficult questions. Harvard historian Pipes, author of a number of seminal books on Russia (The Russian Revolution, 1990; Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1994; etc.), seeks here to find the reason for the virtual absence of democracy and civil liberties through seven centuries of Russian history. He finds it in the refusal of the Russian state to recognize anything akin to Western attitudes on property. The growth of legal protection for the individual in England, and later in its colonies, was closely associated with the recognition of property rights. By contrast, he contends that the critical factor in the failure of Russia to develop rights and liberties was the liquidation of landed property in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which deprived the Russians of the means to limit the power of their kings. But Pipes goes beyond this to contend that property rights have been critical throughout history to the development of liberty. He shows that the Marxist assumption of early communism, of property being shared in common, is historically unfounded. Surviving ancient legal codes, like the Code of Hammurabi (c.2000 b.c.e.), and Assyria (1500 b.c.e.), are very much focused on ownership. What concerns Pipes is that an awareness of this historic link has been eroded by evolutionary sociology, which emerged in the 19th century under the influence of Darwin; and by a thoughtless egalitarianism, epitomized by President Johnson's famous statement that we seek not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and as a result. Since human beings are by nature unequal, such equality in fact can be achieved only by compulsion. Pipes may be on some unfamiliar territory, and Property and Freedom lacks theassurance of his earlier works, but it constitutes a valuable and cautionary lesson from his deep study of the failed Russian system.