Document Type


Publication Date



In 2004, President George W. Bush said, “I believe in private property so much, I want everyone in America to have some.” Much earlier, in 1948, an economics professor from the University of Texas expressed the same sentiment in strikingly similar terms. When asked by an investigatory committee of the Texas legislature whether he favored private property, he replied, “I do . . . and so strongly that I want everyone in Texas to have some.” Even putting aside the possibility that the President’s speechwriters found inspiration in an unacknowledged source, there are several interesting things to note about these two statements. More than a half-century stands between them. One speaker, President Bush, was and is a Republican politician somewhat to the right. The economist, in contrast, was a wellknown leftist. Yet despite the distance between the two men in years and ideological outlooks, both seemed to endorse the property system and the wide distribution of property rights. I am inclined to think that most Americans would express similar sentiments today, although the meanings they attach to their words might vary considerably when it comes down to particulars. And regarding particulars, I am confident that there is much less contentiousness about the operation of the property system for any given distribution of rights then there is about what the actual distribution of rights should be. In other words, property rights are one thing, and rights to property quite another.


Available at