June 13, 2014

Thanks Tom

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Recently on this site, I made a technical clarification on the use of the word “ownership.”  I wrote to suggest the use of the word “steward:”

Now, we as Christians need to be even more precise.  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills –God owns everything.  That which we are said to own under the law is ultimately owned by God.  Thus, to be precise and technical, we are stewards, not owners.  When it is said in libertarian property theory that we are property “owners,” Christians should remind themselves that this is not to infer that God has no right to intervene with our property.  Rather, it means that no other human (this includes the State) can breach our authority (given by God, the rightful owner) over the property over which we are stewards.  For practical reasons however, and to maintain the ability to communicate with others, it is entirely acceptable to use the words “property owners” to describe ourselves.

Tom Woods, without having read my article (presumably), makes a similar point yesterday:

For the Christian, God owns absolutely everything, not just your physical body. According to the logic of this article [the one he is critiquing –CJE], therefore, we cannot lay just claim to any physical thing, whether bodies, houses, books, or anything else.

The issue is that vis-a-vis other human beings, we are the owners or stewards of particular property, and of our physical bodies.

In the liberty movement, Woods has far more weight than I do. Thus, it is nice to see my own considerations find support.  I like the phrase “vis-a-vis other human beings.”  Helpful indeed.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • This is something Bob Murphy has stated as well, you can probably search the “ConsultingbyRPM” blog and find some reference to this.

  • kim Ringsmose

    My tentative position is this: Ownership boils down to a claim to just use and this claim is always (at least potential) against someone. If there is a dispute between two people we consider first use and contracts etc. However if the dispute is between a mere man and the God who created everything and sustains it in existence he all ways has the better claim even to the point of destroying body and soul. An illustration: my son could have a better claim to the use of a certain chair at out home over against my daughter based on first use, but not against me.