… is from pages 140-141 of F.A. Hayek’s 1960 volume, The Constitution of Liberty – appropriately enough, as today is the 114th anniversary of Hayek’s birth (footnote excluded):
In modern society, however, the essential requisite for the protection of the individual against coercion is not that he possess property but that the material means which enable him to pursue any plan of action should not be all in the exclusive control of one other agent. It is one of the accomplishments of modern society that freedom may be enjoyed by a person with practically no property of his own (beyond personal belongings like clothing – and even these can be rented) and that we can leave the care of the property that serves our needs largely to others. The important point is that the property should be sufficiently dispersed so that the individual is not dependent upon particular persons who alone can provide him with what he needs or who alone can employ him.
That other people’s property can be serviceable in the achievement of our aims is due mainly to the enforceability of contracts. The whole network of rights created by contracts is as important a part of our protected sphere, as much as the basis of our plans, as any property of our own.