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Monday, June 22, 2009

Property--the root of all evil

One concept that Wilde sees as most responsible for the evil in society is the ownership of private property. He explicitly states that "the possession of private property is very often extremely demoralising." (p. 21) The reason Wilde feels this is the case is that it forces the poor to rely on charity, which "creates a multitude of sins" because it results in the perpetuation of poverty. (p. 21)

Wilde makes the seemingly paradoxical statement that "private property has crushed true Individualism," by which he means that man has allowed possessions to define him instead of what is in him as well as what he expresses through himself. As proof, Wilde points out that "English law has always treated offences against a man’s property with far more severity than offences against his person, and property is still the test of complete citizenship." (p. 25) Unfortunately, property has become more valuable to many than mankind itself.

As a result of the emphasis place on property ownership, there has been a proliferation in the number of crimes being committed. Wilde describes the result of the elimination of private property:

"The less punishment, the less crime. When there is no punishment at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if it occurs, will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care and kindness. For what are called criminals nowadays are not criminals at all. Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime. That indeed is the reason why our criminals are, as a class, so absolutely uninteresting from any psychological point of view. They are not marvellous Macbeths and terrible Vautrins. They are merely what ordinary, respectable, commonplace people would be if they had not got enough to eat. When private property is abolished there will be no necessity for crime, no demand for it; it will cease to exist." (p. 31)

When the punishment for crime is reduced, the number of crimes will be reduced. The main reason for the existence of crime is poverty, and its elimination will rid the world of crime as well. Wilde further clarifies his statement, "but though a crime may not be against property, it may spring from the misery and rage and depression produced by our wrong system of property-holding, and so, when that system is abolished, will disappear." (p. 32) The ownership of private property crushes Individualism, which leads to poverty, which ultimately leads to the proliferation of crime.

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