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Private property is essential to liberty

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Property in all its forms, including one’s earnings, has always been one of the bulwarks of American liberty. That absolute guarantee of property is the powerful magnet that will ensure society remains anchored to liberty. And, so long as there are those citizens unwilling to be deprived of their property, so long as government will not take property without just compensation, society will never be cast loose from its underpinnings.

Most of us are aware of Thomas Jeffer-son’s famous quote: "Property is the foundation of all civilized society." James Madison said, "The protection of these facilities [different and unequal facilities of acquiring property] is the first object of government."

The communist end of the spectrum depends on the denial of property, so the American end demands the absolute guarantee of it. Once the right to acquire, hold, or dispose of property becomes uncertain, so does everything else that constitutes the core of America.

Today, from the national government to the local ones, property rights are being eroded at an alarming rate. Take for example modern environmental laws. Citizens are deprived of the use of their property to protect endangered species or perhaps a muddy swamp euphemistically known as a wetland.

Not too long ago the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) decreed carbon dioxide a pollutant giving that agency the right to regulate, by fiat, property belonging to corporations and their stockholders. This, of course, is being done in the name of combating manmade global warming. And, I’m sure, their regulation won’t be friendly or handled in a manner so as to encourage profits.

It seems local bureaucrats have little or no respect for their citizens property rights either. One of the more egregious is employing eminent domain against their citizens to increase tax revenues or combat "urban blight." Such instances are many; the most infamous recent case involved Suzette Kelo and New London, Conn., which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Many local governments have instituted "no smoking" ordinances telling local business owners they cannot allow smoking on their premises, or they require expensive and onerous changes or improvements in the premises meant to minimize smoke inhalation by non-smoking patrons. That decision should be left to the individual business owner who had the idea, took the initiative, put up the capital and took the risks, not anyone else. Or, if one hates smoking and a particular establishment permits it, the simple answer is just to take your business elsewhere.

Local parking ordinances, zoning to preclude certain businesses from coming into town, high impact fees, just to mention a few, are all tools of overzealous city bureaucrats which infringe on the rights of property owners.

Experience shows property and liberty to be inseparable. Indeed, one might rightfully conclude that liberty is a function of property guaranteed. This is so because, in the broadest sense, everything may be seen as property – even life itself. Throughout history, those societies that indulged in the legal taking of lives started by taking property through government action.


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