Dedicated to the
Property Rights – The Core Issue
An understanding of the heritage of the
American concept of property rights is necessary before we can
properly deal with that issue. Equipped with that understanding,
our concerns will go far beyond any individual neighborhood or
development – we will be concerned about the very
integrity of our system of constitutional governance. Any
social compact that permits the stronger, more powerful to
forcefully take the property of the weaker members of society
will eventually allow similar takings of “property”
of a more personal nature, like life and liberty.
You see, at the root of the American Revolution was a rejection of British mercantilism - an unjust use of the state's power to favor some members of society over others. Mercantilism results in state-protected monopolies that limit entrepreneurial opportunities and advancement of lower classes. Under mercantilism class stratification becomes the rule of the day.
The same year our founding fathers rejected mercantilism by publishing The Declaration of Independence, Scottish economist, Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations”. His book became the source of inspiration for a new economic model based on the understanding that our liberties are “endowed by our Creator”, not other men.
“inalienable rights” were not guaranteed happiness,
but they did include the right to the “pursuit of
happiness”. Although our constitution became the guaranteer
of the right to pursue happiness, it was Adam Smith's free market
economic model, “capitalism”, that enabled
that pursuit. And the foundation of capitalism is private
property rights. Without security in property rights our
economy, and our liberty, are transient.
THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
“That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”
Eighty eight years before the Declaration of Independence, Locke espoused the principles behind the colonies' right to "dissolve the political bands" with King George:
"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, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence."
King George's system of mercantilism was diametrically opposed to Locke's principles – principles that from the time of the Magna Charta all Englishmen, including the colonists, had grown to expect as basic rights. The British king not only failed to protect the colonist's property, thus failing in the “principle office of government”, he also became the greatest threat to that property. And in Locke's words, when the government abuses its power to the detriment of the property of the people, it puts itself in a "state of war" with the people.
The so called “American Revolution”
was really not a revolution at all, but an “absolv(ing)
from farther obedience”, justified by the “state
of war” King George imposed on the colonists –
that's what the list of “grievances” in the
Declaration was all about.. The colonies were not seeking to
overthrow King George, just secede or “dissolve the
political bands” with him.
LIFE, LIBERTY, AND ESTATE
Locke insisted that the “natural
state” of man was one of independence from all others, but
men “have a mind to unite for the mutual Preservation
of their Lives, Liberties and Estates, which I call by the
general Name, 'Property'”.
“...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
Jefferson used “pursuit of happiness” to include the whole realm of freedom, but Locke referred to our spectrum of freedoms “by the general name 'property'”.
James Madison, heralded as the father of our constitution, explained it this way:
[This] term ("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....
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....
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. A magistrate issuing his warrants to a press gang, would be in his proper functions in Turkey or Indostan, under appellations proverbial of the most compleat despotism.
A RETURN TO MERCANTILISM
Missouri's current practice of using eminent
domain for non-public uses is a return to mercantilism and a
violation of everything America stands for! To ignore this
terrible injustice is a slap in the face of all the men and women
who bled and died to establish and then, later, protect and
defend our constitution.
RESTORATION OF ORIGINAL
Anyone who might think that he is not affected by our present system of property rights abuse had better think again. No one's property is safe as things are now. And if the powerful are allowed to use the sword of the state to take real-estate, they had better wonder what other types of “property” might be next.
And even if you are not ever personally a victim of of this abuse, you are still affected. The words of John Donne express it best:
No man is an Island,
By: Ron Calzone
Missouri First, Inc.