The ownership of property is not about power, and the wide distribution of property is not about a greater equilibrium of power. Rather, property has an end, which is to serve the common good. The universal destination of all material goods is in God. As Aquinas says, we should regard property as a gift from God, as gift that is only valid if we use it for the benifit of others (ST II-II66.1ad2). Thus Aquinas sanctions private ownership only insofar as it is put to its proper end, which is the good of all: “Man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate then to others in their need (ST II-II.62.2). Absent such a view of the true end of property, freedom means being able to do whatever one wants with one’s property, and property can thus become nothing more than a means of power over others. (29)
What is most important is the direct embodiment of free economic practices. From a Christian point of view, the churches should take an active role in fostering economic practices that are consonant with the true ends of creation. This requires promoting economic practices that maintain close connections among capital, labor, and communities, so that real communal discernment of the good can take place. Those are spaces in which true freedom can flourish. (32)
William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed
n., something owned; a possession.
[Middle English, from Old French propriete, from Latin proprietas, ownership]
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Effetti del Buon Governo in Campagna or “The Effects of Good Government in the Country” (c. 1338-1340)