BB&T Academic Programs
What Capitalism Is
The Nature of Government
Economics of Capitalism
The protection of property rights is one of the main foundations of a capitalist system. Property rights recognize the individual's moral claim to the products of his mind or his labor. The right to private property is a direct implication of each individual's right to life, which entails the right to take the actions necessary to sustain his life. Since human beings require material values for their well-being and survival, they must have a right to acquire, use, and dispose of those values. They must have a right to both the thought and work that goes into the process of creating those values.
The protection of property rights requires a stable system of laws, which recognize both material ownership of land and possessions as well as ownership of intellectual property in the form of patents or copyrights. Politically, the right to property entails a system of wholly private ownership. In capitalism, there can be no public property.
Property rights are crucial to a fully free society because they are the means of implementing the right to life and all its corollary rights. To sustain life, man must produce material values—from food and shelter to auditoriums and laboratories—that will enable human flourishing. To be moral, a man must be productive and he must have the right to engage in the production and consumption of material values. This right goes hand in hand with the other rights of individuals—rights are a unity. The right of property is what allows men to remain free to disagree in their political opinions, to express themselves in free speech, to practice their religion freely, to define the terms of their happiness according to their own judgment.