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Many innately “useless” objects in society seem to have great exchange value, much to the consternation of the cultural stewards. For example, there is a thriving market for tiny plastic ornamentation to decorate your rubber sandals with. I argue elsewhere that this is not “useless,” but that is not the focus here. Consider why Jibbetz have such a high exchange value. It is not because any one person says so. It is not because the state says so. In fact, Jibbetz have a high exchange value because millions of people say so.

Market values for property do not just fall from the sky. They reflect the demands and preferences of the rest of society. If an owner of a piece of property decides to use that property in ways that are not in accordance with the “highest social value” then only he forsakes the price and profits that others would have paid him for access to that property. The point being that although property is considered private, these private decisions are predicated on a public evaluation of the resource. Using private property necessarily requires the consideration of the values of the public.

The diamond mine my home sits on top of is only valuable because “society” deems diamonds valuable and important. I can only realize the value in my property because others thing it is valuable – not because I think it is so. Consider instead if my house was sitting on top of an unlimited supply of “I love Flint, Michigan” bumper stickers. I may think these are the greatest things in the world, but unless everybody else also thinks this, then I will never realize the “value” from these things. Private property IS pro-social.

Consider the opposite case of public property. It functions in quite the opposite sphere. Although some property is made “public” on the grounds that no single individual should command them, or that millions of individuals should enjoy them, you might consider how “pro-social” the institution of public property really is. How are decisions regarding the use and upkeep of public property made? At best, they use input from voters who then have their thoughts channeled through their elected politicians and ultimately to a few people sitting on an unelected committee. At worst, the unelected committee just makes decisions as it sees fit. Given the problem of communicating important information in a world without prices, it is virtually impossible for the preferences of society to be accurately passed on the stewards of public property. Therefore the use of public property is predicated on the evaluation and decisions of a few private evaluations. This is quite the opposite of what public property proponents intend or think, and certainly diametrically opposed to what systems of private property promote. Rather than being pro-social, the institution of “public” property has to be anti-social. There can be no other way.

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