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The Noblest Triumph

Property and Prosperity Through the Ages


Tom Bethell (View Bio)
Hardcover: St. Martin's, 1998; Paperback: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

The Noblest Triumph

"Wide-ranging and elegantly written." — The Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Bethell has written a clear, cogent book that both sums up and advances our knowledge of property. In learning and suggestiveness, The Noblest Triumph is a triumph indeed. " — Chronicles

"Bold and unconventional." — Richard Pipes, Commentary

"Bethell...traces the intellectual fall and rise of private property, taking pains to expand our understanding of this complicated and sometimes arcane topic by incorporating digressions into political and social history.... [An] impressive accomplishment." — Reason magazine

"Bethell's book is enjoyable...learned and amusing." — The New York Times Book Review

"An intellectual milestone." — Hernando De Soto, author of THE MYSTERY OF CAPITAL: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

"Marx preached the abolition of private property; utopian William Godwin inveighed against property and marriage as evils; and British socialist Robert Owen, who subsidized a failed collectivist community in New Harmony, Ind., in the 1820s, taught that private property warped human character. In their wake, argues American Spectator Washington correspondent Bethell, the concept of private property has been tarnished. In a signal contribution to the debate over capitalism's future, he contends that economic prosperity and social justice are possible only when property rights are widespread — and protected by a legal system that holds all equal before the law. These factors, he maintains, explain the vast gulf separating the world's prosperous nations and underdeveloped economies. All over the Third World, he notes, most people are permanently at risk of eviction, seizure, squatters' or police-state depredations. It follows, he argues, that the solution to poverty is not expropriation of land and redistribution of wealth, but rather, creating an infrastructure that will secure title rights to land, homes and businesses, making private enterprise feasible. A shrewd analyst of the abortive Soviet experiment, Bethell offers a novel analysis of the mid-19th-century Irish famine, arguing that shortsighted Anglo-Irish landlords acted against their own best interests by denying tenant farmers long-term leases." — Publishers Weekly

"In this marvelous, wide-angled look at the concept of property rights, its historic roots, and its impact on life, liberty, justice, peace, and prosperity, the Washington correspondent for the American Spectator cites a broad range of illustrative examples. Among them are the failure of Robert Owen's New Harmony, IN, commune; what Boris Yeltsin described as the failure of the ‘Soviet experiment'; the legal and political factors that made England ripe for the Industrial Revolution; recent interest in intellectual property; the early communal failures at Jamestown and Plymouth; and the radical reforms that have brought economic growth to China. The author effectively integrates Marx, Engels, Locke, Rousseau, Plato, Malthus, Ricardo, Keynes, Hume, Roman civil law, and British common law while affirming that prosperity and civilization can arise only when property is securely held by the people. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries." — Library Journal

"[Bethell] provides a much-needed general overview of the concept of property throughout history. As he notes, property as a subject crosses a dozen disciplines, and most books that examine the notion of property do so through the eyes of specialists. His own view is colored by the broader concerns of law and economics as he makes the connection between property and justice and liberty. Bethell considers how philosophers from Plato to Marx regarded the institution of property, he discusses communal property, and he examines contemporary problems related to the idea of intellectual property. He also contrasts the role of property in various societies and historical periods, including Ireland during the potato famine, Arab desert cultures, early American colonial settlements, and modern China." — Booklist

"[Bethell makes] a compelling case that private property fosters not only prosperity but also liberty, justice, and peace." — National Review

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