Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages by Tom Bethell
Volume 2, No. 3 (Fall 1999)
This book is a thorough, lively, and almost encyclopedic defense of private-property rights. In this benighted age, there are not too many of those around. Ranging far and wide, Bethell shows the benefits of private property throughout history and in virtually every corner of the globe. He demonstrates how the institutions of private property can solve environmental problems, were responsible for the success of the industrial revolution in England, how the lack of them accounted for the failures of the U.S.S.R., feudalism, and the third world. His explanation of the Irish famine is alone worth far more than the price of admission. Standing head and shoulders over many purely economic defenses of this institution, Bethell's book also demonstrates the virtues of property rights on political and moral grounds. However, the book makes the case in favor of private-property rights makes needless compromises; it is hemmed in by a welter of caveats, restrictions, exceptions, and provisos.