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Benedikt Koehler on the history of property rights in Judeo-Christianity

Benedikt Koehler will be giving us a whistle-stop tour through 2,500 years of thinking on property rights in Judeo-Christianity.

John Locke’s contention that everyone has a right to own property now seems so obvious it is hard to imagine how it could ever have been contentious. However, the opposite notion - that land was beyond the reach of private ownership - had been axiomatic from the beginnings of Judeo-Christianity and throughout most of the Middle Ages.

The authority of Moses, Jesus, and Francis of Assisi supported the notion that ownership of land was beyond man’s grasp. Moses on the eve of entry to Israel quoted the Lord, “Mine is the land, for you are sojourning settlers with Me.” Early Christianity built on this cornerstone of Judeo-Christian conceptions of property rights and was conspicuously anti-materialist. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226) took anti-materialism to extremes and precipitated Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) who set out ownership was compatible with Christianity. 

Benedikt Koehler was educated at Yale and Tübingen and his career has been in the City and in Whitehall. He has written articles for the IEA’s journal Economic Affairs, a biography of Ludwig Bamberger - a co-founder of Germany’s Liberal Party and of Deutsche Bank - and a book Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism. His current focus is on property rights in Judeo-Christianity.

To RSVP, please email events@adamsmith.org. We open doors at 6pm and the talk itself will begin at 6.30pm.