Molinari on the Major Categories of Property and their Corresponding Type of Liberty


Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912)

As part of our commemoration of the Centennial of his death at 92 years of age on 28 January, 1912 in Adinkerke, Belgium we will highlight some important aspects of his thought.

Here we present a summary of his discussion of the "6 Major Categories of Property and their Corresponding Type of Liberty” in Cours d’économie politique (1863). For a fuller discussion see this page.

Molinari added a new chapter in the 2nd edition of Cours d’economie politique (1863) which had not been in the 1st edition of 1855: vol. 1, 4e Leçon "La valeur et la propriété". He provides the following categorization of the main kinds (modes) of property and the “liberty” which corresponds to that form of property (into 6 major groups):

A man who possesses things of value is endowed with the natural right to use and dispose of them as he sees fit. The things of value so possessed can be destroyed or preserved, transferred by means of exchange, gift, or bequest. To each of these modes of use, employment, or disposition of property, corresponds a (particular kind of) liberty.

Let us list these liberties which the right of property is divided:

  1. The liberty of directly using created or acquired things of value for the satisfaction of the needs of whomever possesses them, that is "the liberty of consumption."
  2. The liberty of employing them (things of value) to produce other things of value, that is "the liberty of industry and the professions."
  3. The liberty of combining them to the things of value belonging to another person in order to create a more efficient instrument of production, that is "the liberty of association."
  4. The liberty of exchanging them across space and time, that is to say in a place and at a time when one believes that this exchange will be the most useful, that is "the liberty of trade” (free trade).
  5. The liberty of lending them, that is to say to transmit (pass on, hand over?) to another person the enjoyment of some capital under conditions which have been freely negotiated, that is "the liberty of credit."
  6. The liberty of giving or bequeathing them, that is to say to transmit freely to another person the things of value which one possesses, that is "the liberty of gifting or bequesting."

These are the main types of (spécial) liberties, or what amounts to the same thing, these are the particular rights into which the general right of property is divided.

Posted: Saturday - October 06, 2012 at 02:13 PM