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The Universal Destination of Goods: The Ethics of Property in the Theory of a Christian Society

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Abstract

In its property ethics, the theory of a Christian society tries to bring together two statements that at first glance are not easily reconciled. The first statement underscores the importance of private property to the freedom and personal development of a person and declares that the right to personal property is a natural law. The second statement reminds us that God has destined the goods of this earth to the benefit of all people and nations, and, therefore, they must also be enjoyed by all. When either statement is divorced from the other, misunderstandings, controversies, or even ideologies easily result. This holds for the Catholic theory of society as well as for Protestant social ethics. Even though most of the following citations are taken from the social encyclicals and other documents of the Roman Catholic Church, all of the fundamental statements also hold for Protestant social ethics in the tradition of Martin Luther.

Manfred Spieker, "The Universal Destination of Goods: The Ethics of Property in the Theory of a Christian Society," Journal of Markets & Morality 8, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 333-354


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