The thieves had their revenge when Proudhon convicted the bourgeoisie of theft.

The foundation of capitalism is property rights—another social construct we inherited from kings and aristocrats. Property shifts hands more rapidly today, but the concept is the same: the idea of ownership legitimizes the use of violence to enforce artificial imbalances in access to land and resources.

Some people imagine that property could exist without the state. But property rights are meaningless without a centralized authority to impose them—and as long as a centralized authority exists, nothing is truly yours, either. The money you make is minted by the state, subject to tax and inflation. The title for your car is controlled by the DMV. Your house doesn’t belong to you, but to the bank that gave you the mortgage; even if you own it outright, eminent domain trumps any deed.

What would it take to protect the things that are important to us? Governments only exist by virtue of what they take from us; they will always take more than they give. Markets only reward us for fleecing our fellows, and others for fleecing us. The only real insurance is in our social ties: if we want to be sure of our security, we need mutual aid networks that can defend themselves.

Without money or property rights, our relationships to things would be determined by our relationships with each other. Today, it is just the other way around: our relationships with each other are determined by our relationships to things. Doing away with property wouldn’t mean you would lose your belongings; it would mean that no sheriff or stock market crash could take away the things you depend on. Instead of answering to bureaucracy, we would begin from human needs; instead of taking advantage of each other, we would pursue the advantages of interdependence.

A scoundrel’s worst fear is a society without property—for without it, he will only get the respect he deserves. Without money, people are valued for what they contribute to others’ lives, not for what they can bribe others to do. Without profit, every effort must be its own reward, so there is no incentive for meaningless or destructive activity. The things that really matter in life—passion, camaraderie, generosity—are available in abundance. It takes legions of police and property surveyors to impose the scarcity that traps us in this rat race.