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Richard Pipes on Property as an Institution

Richard Pipes, the great Harvard historian, has died at 94. Best known for his clear-eyed work on Russia and its Bolshevik Revolution, a topic on which so many thinkers over the past century have fallen short, Pipes also wrote a terrific 1999 book on private property as a cornerstone of civilization, Property and Freedom: The Story of How through the Centuries Private Ownership Has Promoted Liberty and the Rule of Law. It’s a favorite on Cato reading lists, including Tom Palmer’s on principles of liberty and Ian Vásquez’s on economic development. I reviewed it favorably at the time for the Wall Street Journal and noted its wide historical sweep, including Pipes’s account of the many schools and movements since Plato that have taken a stance hostile to rights of private possession. These include not only communists, syndicalists, and the like, but some romantic nationalists and even cultural anthropologists who for a time claimed (wrongly) that primitive

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