The concept of property is fundamental to our society, probably to any workable society. Operationally, it is understood by every child above the age of three. Intellectually, it is understood by almost no one.
Consider the slogan “property rights vs. human rights.” Its rhetorical force comes from the implication that property rights are the rights of property and human rights the rights of humans; humans are more important than property (chairs, tables, and the like); consequently, human rights take precedence over property rights.
But property rights are not the rights of property; they are the rights of humans with regard to property.
- from The Machinery of Freedom (1973) by David Friedman, Part 1, “In defense of property”.