This chapter discusses wealth and property rights in American society. It argues that material wealth has not only been integrally linked to the founding ideals and narrative themes of the country, but has also been central to the principles, methods, and objectives of government. The right to acquire and to own property has been privileged in America as a fundamental feature of citizenship and this has led to profound consequences for the nature of civil society and the remit of public policy. The theme of wealth being appropriated and protected by the natural rights attributed to individuals has served to shape conceptions of personal liberty and also to define the values, identity, and internal dynamics of an expansionist social order. Wealth and the organization of social life through property draw upon, and are informed by, many other American values. By the same token, the principle of property rights contributes to, and cultivates those values. It can even be plausibly asserted that the rights of property acquisition and security have a dominant position over other sources of principle and legitimacy.
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