Property Rights in the Law of Moses Oppose Capitalism

It is curious that property inheritance in the Law of Moses should be seized upon by capitalists as vindicating their view of the absolute rights of that historically very contingent thing which they now call ‘private property’.

Under the Mosaic Law, land (which we call real as opposed to moveable property), once alienated by sale or seizure for debt, was to be restored to its original owner in the year of jubilee, once in 50 years. In an agrarian society, land was the most important productive property. If we transfer the jubilee’s principle to modern times, capital and other productive property is to be redistributed from those who have acquired it by sale or seizure between jubilees, and debts are to be cancelled. Thus, between jubilees, all sale of land and other productive property is actually leasehold. The Mosaic Law’s property régime renders relative, rather than absolute, any attempt to claim ownership and dominium by virtue of acquisition by sale or seizure.

While the Mosaic Law is not obligatory upon us, nor should we try to replicate it, its moral principles are abiding, and no Christian is free to call its œconomic provisions for the disadvantaged unjust. This is a truth that ostensibly those who point to Mosaic Law to justify capitalism have recognized. Alas for them, if they with their moral and œconomic principles encountered a society following Mosaic Law, they would condemn its property régime as theft. This is because the Mosaic property régime is opposed to capitalist principles.

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