Front Page Titles (by Subject) Marx, Freedom, and Property - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Marx, Freedom, and Property - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Marx, Freedom, and Property
“Freedom and Private Property in Marx.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (Winter 1979): 122–147.
The Communist Manifesto declares: “The theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” Karl Marx's opposition to private ownership remains controversial and ambiguous.
Many analysts of Marxian theory maintain that there is no possibility of a moral critique of capitalism by Marx, since, for him, all moral principles are imminant in the material situation. To the extent, therefore, that capitalism follows bourgeois moral and legal rules, Marx could not condemn private property as unjust or immoral. These analysts have therefore identified the essence of Marx's opposition to private ownership with various economic or historical factors.
On the other hand, some scholars claim that capitalist appropriation of the “surplus value” (or “unpaid labor”) inherent in a product represented for Marx an exploitation of workers. Such exploitation constituted a violation of the moral principle of justice.
Professor Brenkert finds both views in error. Marx based his critique of private property, not on the moral principle of justice, but on the moral principle of freedom. Human relations as determined by the bourgeois organization of society negate the value of freedom, as Marx viewed it.
At least three dimensions comprise the freedom that Marx advocates. First of all, one is truly free when one is exempt from fortuity and able to participate in the control of one's affairs. Private ownership, by dividing society into the propertied and the propertyless, denies to the latter the direction of their affairs, stands in opposition to a flourishing and harmonious society, and imposes upon all the clutch of the market's invisible hand.
Secondly, freedom requires the concrete objectification of man through his activities, products, and relations. Capitalism obstructs this objectification by providing for only symbolic interactions between people and things—in terms of exchange-value and money.
Thirdly, freedom can only be achieved in and through community—in contact and cooperation with others. In a society based on private property, however, privacy is raised to the level of an ultimate social principle: “Mind your own business.” This capitalist insistence on the separateness of individual interests effectively precludes an understanding of the fact that individual lives reflect and participate in a larger social order.
Prof. Brenkert next proceeds to discuss at length Marx's view of the relativity of justice. If the principle of justice has only relative value as a standard of judgment, how could Marx use the principle of freedom as a transcultural absolute in his condemnation of private property? For Marx, the development of man, his capacities, and relations constitutes the transcultural element in freedom which allows for a critique of all social systems. To one degree or another, every mode of production either fosters or discourages those factors comprising the threefold framework of freedom mentioned above (control of one's affairs, concrete objectification of products and relations, and community).
Unlike a standard of justice, which represents an effect or external product of a system of production, the elements constituting freedom are innate in the development of every economic system. On the basis of these criteria, Marx can assert that, under the system of private property, persons grow progressively less free. As a result, Brenkert argues, this form of economic and social organization is to be condemned.