The Surprising Decline of Personal Ownership Under Modern Capitalism

Derek McDaniel
4 min readNov 14, 2019

One of the great features of having an economic system that permits independent enterprise and open trade, is that it allows for the development of personal wealth and ownership. Personal ownership is being self accountable for the development and care of some type of resource. The social benefit of this kind of personal responsibility is significant. Personal ownership teaches accountability, thrift, enterprise and autonomy.

Surprisingly, however, many forms of personal ownership seem to be in decline, which appears to not be for a lack of capitalist policy, but rather a direct result of the some of the strategies that are commonly employed in our modern versions of capitalism. This includes areas like home ownership and also the development of business and industry.

Many industries are controlled by a relatively few number of players, and many tech industries do not even have commercial offerings for their key products available to consumers. Whether you like it or not, there
is no way to pay for google search, or for the personal use of facebook, which are each the respective primary use cases of each service.

The revenue these companies gain, primarily comes from third parties. When paying for consumption of a service is not even possible, it is very hard to claim there is any kind of personal ownership involved in the use of the service.

I consider capitalism to be the practice of treating different forms of wealth as interchangeable, and using trade and prices to make decisions about how those resources should get used. Contrary to how many view this, I see this as functioning the best when there is oversight and clearly defined and enforced rule of law. It is possible for regulations to needlessly restrict commerce, or add undue burdens, but overwhelmingly they create a much more healthy and safe environment to conduct commerce. How quickly would cars be able to move in a city without any traffic lights or rules? Freedom does not come from lawlessness. Sensible oversight and regulation can dramatically improve, and not restrict, the function of commerce and trade.

As much as this idea is beneficial — that different forms of wealth are interchangeable, and that we should use trade and prices to move wealth around and decide where to use it, it can also have significant drawbacks. It is not well advised to apply this kind of decision making to…