The only things that really matter are those that cannot be easily bought and sold.
The richness of human language is astounding. Sometimes it might even seem as if we have too many words for the same thing. For example, the common vernacular doesn’t really distinguish between “properties” and “possessions.” Casting aside for a moment all those instances in which the two words are used metaphorically, we can say that they both describe the relationship between a person and a thing. The person who has property or possessions is generally said to be able to determine their use as they see fit, without the ability of others to interfere in that process. A thing is “mine” if it is my property, and also if I possess it. I can do with it (almost) whatever I want.
I’m not concerning myself here with the legal definition of terms, with the different types of property, or with the restrictions imposed on them by customs and laws. All those apply equally to properties and possessions. Instead, I want to try to tease out what I see as a difference between the two terms. Indeed, distinguishing one from another is of great importance. As a society, we should try to clarify the meaning of words instead of succumbing to their abrasion and disguising in everyday use.
When someone says that something is “his or her own,” that person articulates a very close and irrevocable relationship to a thing. If I own something, it is native to me. It is no coincidence that the English word “property” carries two different meanings: a thing that belongs to someone, and an attribute or quality that characterizes someone or something.
My personal property - or, rather, the sum of personal properties - describes me as a person. Properties are a constitutive part of my individual identity. The particularities of my being are inextricably linked to my properties: a craftsman owns his tools. A stamp collector owns his stamp collection. A publisher owns a publishing house. Parting with those properties would imply parting with the relevant part of one’s identity.