Sunday, June 26, 2011

Property Rights -vs- Progressive Statism

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation 
Birthplace of Independent Conservatism
Liberty -vs- Tyranny

A person's right to their life is fundamental. The right to their property constitutes the secondary  upon which all  other rights flow. Specifically the right of every individual  to retain control and use of their property as they see fit. Properly understood, property rights stand in direct opposition to the premise held by statists that the State has the ultimate right to arbitrarily confiscate an individual's property and redistribute its worth as the state sees fit.

This discussion has, in one form or the other, dominated philosophical and political debate going back to the Age of Reason and The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason were profoundly influenced by Aristotelian logic. Enlightened thinkers begin applying logic to the notion of  "natural rights." During this era in history, and every since the battle between the advocates of the right of the individual to full and complete control of their property, which stands in stark opposition to the immoral premise held by  the altruistic collective that the state holds the right to the same, has been waged.

The most basic and fundamental property right is the right of the individual to their own life. From this right all other rights flow, including the right for one to seek their own happiness and the right to retain in full the rewards that naturally accrue as a result of their productive efforts as Murray N. Rothbard correctly observed in his "Human Rights" as Property Rights.

Liberals generally wish to preserve the concept of "rights" for such "human" rights as freedom of speech, while denying the concept to private property. [1] And yet, on the contrary the concept of "rights" only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard.

 In the first place, there are two senses in which property rights are identical with human rights: one, that property can only accrue to humans, so that their rights to property are rights that belong to human beings; and two, that the person's right to his own body, his personal liberty, is a property right in his own person as well as a "human right." But more importantly for our discussion, human rights, when not put in terms of property rights, turn out to be vague and contradictory, causing liberals to weaken those rights on behalf of "public policy" or the "public good."

As I observe the results of the  progressive agenda, that is to say the anti individual, anti property rights agenda of past and present leaders, I find myself thinking a great deal more about the concept of property rights. As the leadership of both political parties press for rapid movement, albeit at differing trajectories towards the altruistic collectivist abyss the concept of property rights will become increasingly blurred until they simply disappear.

Most people understand that government and a sound socio-economic system is the glue holding a civilized society together. Anyone who believes otherwise is simply choosing not to think.

Accepting that government plays a role in society does not imply, nor does it require the acceptance of statism.  It does however require the roles and responsibilities of government to be well defined. Our Constitution does exactly that. It has been effectively doing so for 222 years. The beauty of our Constitution is that it limits the scope of the federal government, allows individual states significant power over their own internal affairs, and leaves the individual in charge of their own destiny. Of course the last presumes the individual will act rationally in pursuit of their own welfare. In other words it protected property rights.

If we accept government as necessary, and most people do, we must also accept that government requires funding to carry out the peoples business. Our duly elected representatives are responsible for determining what the people believe is necessary to insure a safe and prosperous nation. Within the group of 535 individual congressional representatives, and 100 senators is a wide range of economic, social, political, and philosophical beliefs. This is no doubt why we see such intense political debate and why the political chasm has grown so wide.

Given that government is a "necessary evil” the question with respect to property rights is, to what extent should our government be allowed to venture in confiscating the property of individuals in support of the collective? On one extreme there are those who believe the government should have no confiscatory authority. On the opposite extreme there are those who believe all property should be collective and government should have total confiscatory authority. Which as noted during opening remarks of this article would mean the right to an individuals life.

It seems to this student of history a majority of people today {especially those of the progressive mindset} fail to recognize and or seriously consider the importance of history and the lessons it can teach us. The result of this willful ignorance is seen in the problems this nation faces in the 21st century.

America, specifically the United States of America, became the world's most influential nation because its founding document, the Constitution of the United States, insured the protection of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. As Ayn Rand so accurately pointed out the individual constitutes the smallest minority known to mankind. As such the right of the individual to retain the fruits of his or her labor, as well as the right to utilize their tangible property as they see fit should be considered sacrosanct.

Property rights, beginning with the right to the property of one’s own life, rationally extends to all property a individual legally acquires through their productive efforts. As well as property which is passed to them from the prior generation(s). 

Property rights, once acquired, remain the property of the acquiring individual until such time as they freely chose to pass right of ownerships to another. However, when the transfer of property, whether it be ones life, tangible property {land, home, car etc} or money {liquid assets} is forced by a second party, be it an individual, a mob or the state, the transfer has no morally {ethically) defensible argument. 

Unless a transfer of property is mutually agreed to it amounts to nothing more than a redistribution of wealth at the point of gun. For the purposes of this discussion a gun held to the head of  every individual by  the state.

One of the primary purposes of the United States Constitution was to guard against unwarranted and unethical intrusion of government into the affairs of the nation's private citizens. As well the Constitution establish a legal framework to accomplish this noble task. Unfortunately as the progressive movement grew in popularity both in Europe and the U.S.A. during the early 1900's, under the statist oversight of  presumably well meaning yet misguided politicians, the nation began to lose sight of the moral aspect of property rights and the right of the individual to retain the fruits of their productive labor.

With the progressive movement the federal income tax came to be a permanent reality. Soon to be followed by a myriad of other taxes and fees which were arbitrarily set by an ever growing statist bureaucracy.  Of course the rationale{justification} for confiscating property  from individuals came in the name of  providing for the  "public welfare." 

Social engineering, which is what Social Security and public assistance programs really are, lead to an  expanding welfare bureaucracy. Ultimately this lead to the costly and likely unsustainable Medicare and Medicaid programs enacted during President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society experiment. The progressive statists had succeeded in taking control of the debate with respect to property and individual rights versus the rights of the collective and the power of the state to redistribute wealth as it sees fit. We now have a significant part of  the  population  that sees "entitlements bestowed upon them by the statist government" as their right.

Today we are witnessing the fulfillment of the progressive vision. A vision that says in essence it matters more what your government can do for you  than it matters what you can and should do for yourself.  A vision fully supported in the Presidency of Barrack Hussein Obama. If this nation is to survive as the beacon of liberty, such as it was envisioned in 1776 {and until recent history}, as well as the arbiter of a true capitalism and the power of productive achievement, it must return to the realization that property rights, and the rights of the individual to retain the fruits of their labor must be restored. In full.

Our government does not have a revenue problem. It has a insatiable appetite for spending. An appetite so large it has been involved in redistributing wealth for far too many years. The federal government indeed needs funding to administer its proper role. Which is a limited role as handed us by the framers of our Constitution and Founding Fathers. We have allowed our federal government to far overreach its constitutional authority. In doing so we have essentially given up the ability to fully realize the full benefits of our productive labor.

The question for the 21st century and beyond is... Are we as a people smart enough to see the benefits if we return to the principles that made us great. The principles of property rights and the individual’s right to fully enjoy the rewards of their industry. As well as a return to a properly limited constitutional government .

As I said earlier, many people recognize the positive role an effective and limited government plays in maintaining a civil society. What must ultimately be decided is whether or not we will return to a limited and effective government that allows for and fosters  liberty and prosperity. The 2010 mid term election results begin the process of potentially redefining our government. Going forward the decision we make as a nation will determine whether we experience greater Liberty and Prosper or greater Statism  and as Diminished prosperity .

I leave you with the following to consider... thoughts from 
Frederic Bastiat:

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.
 When under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gains from this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.
 Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
 People are beginning to realize that the apparatus of government is costly. But what they do not know is that the burden falls inevitably on them.
 Law cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.
 The plans differ; the planners are all alike...
 Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole—with their common aim of legal plunder—constitute socialism. Read More


  1. The founding fathers had no such "property rights" in mind. Blacks were non-persons and could not own land. Women could not own land, most whites could not own land.
    The idea that the Constitution can not, or would not change, is laughable.
    States have less say now, because the federal Constitution has been defined by the Supreme Court as applying equality to laws.
    People do have rights and those rights should be uniform throughout all States. The definition of free speech cannot be different from one State to another, and that idea projects to all laws, that must meet equality standards.
    Are you suggesting Gov. Wallace should have had the "right" under the Constitution, to deny blacks entry to public education, even though the Supreme Court decided they must be allowed, or should we have had separate black and white public schools?
    States rights do not trump the Federal Constitution, or individual rights.
    There's another comment you can censor.

  2. By the way, there are 435 House members and 100 senators for a total of 535 members of congress. You might want to reread your posts and get your facts straight before you go and lecture anyone. It also might helpt if you yourself read a little history from time to time rather than relying on the talking point memos that you get daily....the folks most likely to take away your property, like in emient domain, are the conservative justices of the supreme court.

    If you worry about government spending and statism then realize that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both dramatically increased the size of government, more more so than Clinton or, the statists always end up being the people you vote for and support.

    As far as deficits go, then you shouldn't have let GWB destroy the economy....

    But then again, that would require you to take PERSONAL RESPONSBILITY....but then again by creating something like a "independent conservative" and speaking up for gay rights from time to time....which since that has to be legislated does that fall under "statism" and or under the concept of "tyranny of the majority?"

    Not real sure because you spend so much time hurling terms around its hard to figure out what is what or who is who.....

    By the way, don't blame me for posting as ANON...its why not spend some big bucks and create your own blog rather than relying on blogging welfare?


  3. Sorry, but you're wrong on this one, Tao. In 2005, the Supreme Court voted in favor of eminent domain in "Kelo vs. the town of New London (I remember it well - I'm from CT)". The four justices who voted against it were O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. All of the liberals voted for it.

  4. tao - Excuse me, what I meant to say was this... Even given you Ivy League education your remain ignorant.

  5. Anon said: "The idea that the Constitution can not, or would not change, is laughable."

    Actually, all conservatives recognize that the Constitution can change, and there is a process for it called the amendment process.

    However, liberals tend to think that the way to change the Constitution is for people to lie about what it says and wish sections of it into nonexistence. This is exactly what the liberal judges did in the "Citizens United" decision when they supported punishing individuals who criticize politicians.

    "There's another comment you can censor."

    Anon, RN is incapable of censoring here. This is HIS forum. He can choose what is published her or not. Just like the New York Times is not censoring if it chooses not to publish letters to the editor.

    You have things very backwards.

  6. Anon lied: "As far as deficits go, then you shouldn't have let GWB destroy the economy...."

    Actually, it was the Democrats. They were the ones who encouraged the real estate mess with Fannie Mae, which derailed the economy (all going back to the racist Community Reinvesment Act). Bush tried to stop it, but he should have tried harder.

    Blame the people actually responsible.

  7. TAO - Your useless "blogging welfare" comment aside I take you at your word that you are not posting as ANON.

    Since anon is not you TAO, based on comment content it is likely it is Tom from that site, what is it, Stay Awhile?

    Site policy as amended 6/23/11 remains in effect.

  8. At times people's right is neglected specially when it comes to land owners and properties. We have to deal with a long process just to make sure we are entitled to the land we are owning. Government should not overlook this kind of concerns.


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