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Issue #9: property

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In 1754 Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the most influential thinkers leading up to the French revolution, made the bold declaration that private property was the original source of inequality in the world. A century later, French politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon proclaimed, “Property is theft!” Today, another Gallic thinker – economist and bestselling author Thomas Piketty – is making similar claims: that the current structure of property rights is a major cause of inequality. A solution to this pervasive problem, says Piketty, would be a system of land reform that forces the ultra-wealthy to return a part of what they own each year. “It’s like a permanent revolution,” he says, “but it’s a quiet revolution because it takes place within the rule of law.” Whatever your property position – whether you’re a renter, an owner or a property tsar – it’s difficult to deny that there’s a problem: a recent Nielsen survey revealed that 50 per cent of Australians had given up on ever owning their own home.

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