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Property and Freedom


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About the Author

Richard Pipes was for many years a professor of history at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Marlborough, New Hampshire.


Renowned Sovietologist Pipes (The Russian Revolution, etc.) offers a powerfully argued coda to the Cold War triumph of capitalism. Private property, his thesis runs, is a prerequisite for the development of liberal, democratic legal and political systems. The books central comparison of 17th-century England with patrimonial Russia provides a potent argument in support of this assertion. The emergence of private estates in England required a legal system, while the czars ruled by decree; dependent on estate holders for revenue, the English Crown convened parliaments, while the czars required obligatory state service from Russian landowners. British citizens ability to accumulate wealth, backed by common law, resulted in modern capitalist democracies. Not surprisingly, Pipes has little patience with socialist ideals and with what he sees as their penchant for artificially imposed equality. He explicitly states that what a man is, what he does, and what he owns are of a piece, so that an assault on his belongings is an assault also on his individuality and his right to life. As Pipes takes Rousseau and Marx to task for their attacks on property, some readers will be put off by his untempered vehemence. While Pipes begrudgingly concedes that the reformist demands of various social movements have placed valuable checks on the unfettered accumulation of property, his message is most clear when he states human beings must have in order to be. (May)

"A most stimulating and original book. . . . One of the most valuable volumes on property yet." --The American Spectator

"[Property and Freedom] is his most ambitious [book] ever. It is always compelling, often insightful and robust in argument." --Literary Review

"A superb book about a topic that should be front and center in the American political debate. . . . Splendid because it retains the perspective and sweep of great historical scholarship." --National Review

" Pipes is massively erudite." --The New York Times Book Review

" Pipes slowly builds up a strong historical case for the necessity of property rights as a prerequisite for freedoms in general." --The Washington Times

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