The concept of ownership

The concept of ownership is one that holds true only when the scope of consideration is the individual himself. Broadened to encompass society, however, the spending of money to acquire goods should more accurately be stated as “paying off social power to act on one’s behalf.”

That is, if we were to go into a TV store and pick up a TV, without buying off society, it would, ultimately, bring all of its force to bear upon us for trying to steal from it. However, when we hand over the requisite sum of dollars, it will gladly let us walk away with the TV. Therefore, the money paid does not make me owner of the TV, but purchases the complicity of social power in my taking it.

Seen this way, that money is only a contract with the current social power, it seems that there is no “owning” whatsoever. If the regime changes hands, all previous contracts may be annulled. Furthermore, if I spend my life in pursuit of financial gain, what I’m really doing is trying to stack up bargaining chips in order to social power according to my wishes. In a sense, I am then playing to its tune. It is the strong-arm of the law, and I a lowly citizen trying to drum up enough money for it to heed my voice.

But social power can serve us. If we use money to direct social power toward the benefit of society, rather than ourselves exclusively, then rather than paying off the social bully to leave us alone, what we’re doing is directing his energies toward strengthening the very basis of his own power – the people who make up the society.