There can be no Liberty without the right to own and manage private property. Private property is essential to Liberty. It is indispensable to individuality and fundamental to life itself. Where there is no right to private property, there is no Freedom and self-will. In order to maintain our American Republic in Liberty, we must reclaim and secure our cardinal right to own and oversee our own private property.
The great political scientist Frederic Bastiat, in his classic book The Law, defined property this way. Note how it encompasses much more than mere objects and tangible possessions, but is wrapped up in the very concept of Liberty:
“We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.
“But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.
“Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
These words are found at the very beginning of Bastiat’s The Law. They are at the beginning because Bastiat understood that there can be no comprehension of Liberty without a correct understanding, first, of the importance of private property and individual stewardship.
Property is the root of Liberty. It is the foundation of free will. It is the essence of personhood. In a very real sense, there is no life – at least, no life that satisfies and uplifts – without property. What is our life without our God-given right to own and manage private property?
Our Eternal Father created us, His children, and sent us to earth to progress and grow. But how can we accomplish this mission of growth and progression unless we have a personal stewardship to manage, direct, and be personally accountable for? How can we have a stewardship without private property to superintend? And how can we claim we have Freedom if we do not enjoy property and, thereby the chance to use our faculties in administering a stewardship of our own?
Protecting property – that is, life and and the essence of Liberty – is the reason governments exist. The Declaration of Independence states that “to secure [our] rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The three rights specifically mentioned, though of course there are many more, are the rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson adapted his phraseology from the common political thought of the time regarding the three cardinal rights of man – life, Liberty, and property. Some have erroneously charged Jefferson with plagiarism, but the fact is that the notion of “life, Liberty, and property” was widespread. For instance, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, ratified on June 12, 1776, contained this paragraph:
“That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
Perhaps more famously, the British philosopher John Locke, whom Jefferson highly regarded, had written in his Second Treatise on Government that man has a right “to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate.” Locke elaborated on the idea of property in these terms:
“[E]very man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others. . . .
“. . . God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labour, and the penury of his condition required it of him. God and his reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labour. He that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to, nor could without injury take from him. . . .
“Thus labour, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever any one was pleased to employ it upon what was common. . . .
“The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property; and the end why they chuse and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society.”
Other thinkers besides Locke, including the most prominent American Founding Fathers, expressed similar ideas and knew the value of private property rights. They understood that every individual “has a property in his own person” – that is, his life – and that by the labor of his hands he acquires and exercises a stewardship over other property, for which he is accountable. This individual stewardship and accountability over property and life is the fundamental essence of what we call Liberty.
When seen in the light of Bastiat’s explanation of property, we better understand Jefferson’s phrase “pursuit of Happiness.” It is impossible for man to be happy without property. Or, in other words, it is impossible for man pursue a course that leads to happiness without a stewardship, the control of which is authentic life and true Liberty.
We turn again to Frederic Bastiat. He contemplated the purpose of law, government, and society. As before, please note how property correlates to Liberty:
“What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
“Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”
The fundamental basis of civil society is property! Civilization exists to protect individual rights – the most fundamental being life and the stewardship over property that gives that life meaning.
The Founding Fathers knew how important property was. The Bill of Rights was written to protect, among other things, property. The Fifth Amendment, for instance, declared that no citizen shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” These lines in truth encompass the whole of the Constitution and all of our rights. For example, gun confiscation not only violates the Second Amendment, it violates the Fifth by depriving an individual, without due process in a court of law, of his property (i.e. his weapon), his Liberty (i.e. his right to defend himself), and sets him up to be deprived of his life.
The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, concurred with Bastiat and Locke. He gave an eloquent description of property and the purpose of government. Madison stated:
“This term [i.e. property] in its particular application means “that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”
“In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.
“In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.
“In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.
“He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.
“He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.
“He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.
“In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
“Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. . . .
“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. . . .
“. . . Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. . . .
“That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest. . . .
“That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property strictly so called. . . .
“A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor. . . .
“If there be a government then which prides itself in maintaining the inviolability of property; which provides that none shall be taken directly even for public use without indemnification to the owner, and yet directly violates the property which individuals have in their opinions, their religion, their persons, and their faculties; nay more, which indirectly violates their property, in their actual possessions, in the labor that acquires their daily subsistence, and in the hallowed remnant of time which ought to relieve their fatigues and soothe their cares, the influence will have been anticipated, that such a government is not a pattern for the United States.
“If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights” (James Madison, March 29, 1792).
There is much to digest and learn from this description, but the takeaways are these: 1) That man has an inherent right to property, which includes not only his tangible goods like his house and land, but his opinions, conscience, and life; and 2) that government exists to preserve property and can only be considered “wise and just” when it secures this right to each individual.
Like his fellow Founders, John Adams was fierce on the point of private property. He said property is sacred and must be protected as equally as the laws of God Almighty. He wrote:
“Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty . . . The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free. (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America,” 1787).
Another time, John Adams simply stated: “Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist” (John Adams, “Discourses on Davila,” Chapter XIII).
Samuel Adams was every bit as forceful. To him, forfeiting one’s right of private property is to make oneself a slave. He affirmed:
“In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave” (Samuel Adams, “The Rights of the Colonists,” November 20, 1772).
We could continue citing quotes from wise men on the necessity of property and the correlation between property and Liberty, but the point has already been made. Let’s now discuss the opponents of Liberty. The greatest enemies of Freedom are those which seek to abolish private property and, with it, the meaning of life and the essence of Liberty. I speak of the communists specifically and of collectivists in general.
The Communist Manifesto declares that “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” Taking what we know about the relationship of Liberty and property, we can rewrite the communist goal in these words: Abolition of individual Liberty.
The communist desire to abolish Freedom is openly admitted in the Manifesto. Marx noted that capitalists complained that the communists’ planned destruction of capital, that is, wealth, industry, and property, would mean the destruction of Liberty as well. In response, the Manifesto, nonchalantly states: “And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.”
You better believe that today’s conspirators – the Satanic communists who lord over us – still desire to destroy Freedom by abolishing private property. They have successfully succeeded in curtailing property rights throughout most of the world, including nearly everywhere in socialist Europe. They are well on their way to undermining our property rights here in the United States, too.
There are many tactics which the enemy uses to subvert our property rights. James Madison mentioned several. I name only three. First, the big-government oligarchs spend so much money and rack up so much debt that an increase in taxes is necessary to pay for it. This unnecessary and exorbitant taxation is nothing but theft of our personal property – property that belongs rightfully to us and which is earned through our own hard labor. And disproportionate and unequal taxation – which people who advocate higher taxes on the rich are really calling for – is more egregious still, constituting little more than classic wealth redistribution. Inflation, which we fork out money to cover at the grocery store and elsewhere very day, is another hidden tax that also robs us of the fruit of our labor. Minimum wage laws also destroy Liberty and property by stripping from employers the right to decide how to dispense their own property and how to run their own businesses. Socialized medicine – welfare statism – is yet another way government expands, centralizes power, and destroys our wealth (i.e. property) taxation.
Second, our property rights are increasingly curtailed by bureaucratic regulations. Government regulations now number in the hundreds of thousands. These arbitrary and unconstitutional regulations dictate how we can and cannot use our land, how we can and cannot use technology, how we can and cannot run our businesses, who we can and cannot hire, and so forth. Regulations restrict our Freedom to use our property according to the dictates of our conscience and in the pursuit of our personal happiness. It therefore inhibits our full exercise of stewardship – and without stewardship and accountability over property there is no Liberty.
Third, the outright theft of property under spurious justifications increasing at an alarming rate. Americans now lose more property every year to police than to robbers. Under tyrannical asset forfeiture laws, police rob Americans of their property and livelihoods. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is another arm of government that has been busy stealing private land coast to coast. Indeed, government agencies of all types have been confiscating hundreds of thousands of acres of land, in Bolshevik fashion, from innocent Americans – and they’ve been caught on tape bragging and laughing about it! Karl Marx would be proud of what the U.S. government has been turned into by Marxist moles.
No matter how the communists and their abettors do it, the destruction or theft of private property is nothing more nor less than the destruction and theft of Freedom. Remember, even Marx himself acknowledged that the goal is “the abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom.” Please understand that the enemy doesn’t need to arrest you and put you in a cage to take your Freedom. They can do it just as easily by confiscating your property through taxers or by restricting your ability to control your property via bureaucratic regulations.
There can be no real Liberty without private property. There can be little value in life devoid of individual stewardship – and stewardship is embodied in one’s control of private property. In order to be free agents and fully accountable for our individual actions, we must have the right to acquire and control private property. Without this right, no other right really matters. Without private property, there is no Liberty. Without private property, individuality is a hollow talking point. Without private property, we are a collective mass of equally miserable beings. And without the right of private property, there is no Liberty.
I urge you to rise in opposition to the enemies of private property – the communists and big-government collectivists. I encourage you to never relinquish your private property willing, for in so doing you become a slave. And I implore you to always remember that property and Liberty are inseparably linked and that the latter cannot exist without the former. Keep ever in mind the truth that our rightful stewardship over private property is the essence of our Liberty and the essence of our success as Americans. God help America reclaim her sacred rights and her precious Freedom!
January 10, 2020