Tag Archives: saints

Property And Ownership

After yesterday’s illustration, I was set to do a post directly referencing it. But then, the more I wrote this post, the clearer it was that what I was actually going to write about required more in the way of groundwork. So, in a manner a bit more solid than yesterday’s story, let’s talk around this concept a little bit.

There have been various philosophies on the subject of property and ownership.

“Property is theft!” one slogan goes. One could justify that notion with things like the following quote from St Basil:
“Now, someone who takes a man who is clothed and renders him naked would be termed a robber; but when someone fails to clothe the naked, while he is able to do this, is such a man deserving of any other appellation? The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need.”
Quote taken from https://bekkos.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/st-basil-on-stealing-from-the-poor/

The problem is, St Basil was trying to exhort the rich portion of his congregation to do good. Most people who espouse “property is theft” use it as a justification for stealing someone’s property. Though I suppose they don’t view it as stealing, because what they are taking from their victims doesn’t in their eyes, really belong to the victim.

Let us say, then, that owning stuff isn’t necessarily bad.

There was a controversy in sixteenth-century Russia, between monastic groups with different philosophies about property.

The Non-possessors believed that, as monks took a vow of poverty, they should not own property. The Possessors believed that the ownership of property enabled them to use that property to help others.

Obviously, those two sentences leave a bunch of stuff out, and lack any sort of nuance. There’s a segment on Orthodox Wiki that gives more detail, if you want it.

Theoretically, should it be easier to remove someone from property that they own, or from property that they’re renting or squatting in? Ought you to have more leeway to do what you want in and to your home, if you own it, or if you rent it or squat in it?

Reality can be a lot less cut-and-dried than that, but let us affirm the general principle.

If you rent your home, the owner might object to your growing a lot of food plants, and if you do them anyway, could demand you remove them, at your own cost. In your own home,you can grow a bunch of food, perhaps not everything that you need but potentially more than you need of some things, putting you in a position to sell or to give the excess away.

When you rent, your landlord needs to get a certain amount of money (profit) to make it worth his while. On top of that, a smart landlord will budget in maintenance costs. On top of that, there are various related taxes: income tax, property tax, probably more. Perhaps not the property tax, he might make you directly responsible for that. Either way, you’re paying for everything. The landlord may be responsible for contracting for maintenance and so on, but you pay for everything. Otherwise, there would be no profit. A landlord that fails to properly budget for maintenance might charge you extra for work that needs doing. Even if you have a generally good landlord, there’s still the possibility of occasional unpleasant interactions.

Property, then, is a position of strength. But a strength that protects you, and not, in and of itself, a strength that’s attacking other people.