Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/694

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is one with which the courts of Christendom are engaged in an interminable wrestle. Their anxiety shows that they regard the settlement of that question in any particular case as a great point gained one way or the other.

I have said that property is a right to something. It is rather, as Macleod says, "an aggregate or bundle of rights." This aggregate is not the same for all classes of property. Hence in order to define property we must classify it. Before attempting this, let us inquire how it comes about that there is such an institution existing among men. We can all feel, if we can not formulate, a definition which will suffice for this purpose. I do not exactly know the limits of my property-rights, nor which of the rights that I have to-day may be taken away from me to-morrow, but I am severely conscious of the fact that I am chiefly occupied in a struggle to make that mine to-morrow which is not mine to-day, and I want to. know how I came to be engaged in this struggle; how the universe happens to be divided into the mine and the not-mine; and by what warrant the one is transmuted into the other?

I know of but one economist who introduces the science of political economy by founding it upon the right of property. The late Prof. J, M. Sturtevant begins his text-book of "Economics" in this wise:

"The science we are about to expound is the logical development and application to a special group of phenomena, of a single law of nature, as truly as physical astronomy is the logical development and application to the phenomena of the solar system, of the law of gravitation. The law of nature to which we refer may be thus enunciated:

"Every man owns himself, and all which he produces by the voluntary exertion of his own powers.

"Every science must assume something. Ours must assume that the idea of ownership is perfectly clear and intelligible to every one. It is a simple intuition, which originates in the spontaneous action of every human mind, and is therefore indefinable. It ranks in this respect with the idea of personality of moral obligation and of causation."

This statement of the case must be rejected. Property may be universal among human beings, though this is extremely doubtful. But certainly the idea is not clear and intelligible to every one. It would be nearer the truth to say that it is not yet clear to any one. Even the notion that every man owns himself is not universal. A great many human beings are still owned by masters, and millions more by their kings. The conscripted soldiers of Europe do not own themselves. They are owned by the state. And this ownership by the state, by a king, by a slaveholder, is