In 1976, the United Nations adopted its policy on private property, which says, essentially, that there should be none.
Apparently, this U.N. decree outweighs the U.S. Constitution in the mind of at least one professor who is teaching college students. In an article prepared for Environment News Service, Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D., says “private ownership … has reached epidemic proportions.”
The professor says that “discussions of private property go astray,” when they include the U.S. Constitution and the words of James Madison and John Adams. He contends that it is their attitude which insured that land would remain the domain of the wealthy elite. He says that “no trespassing” signs are the “new badges of achievement for the affluent.” He says property-rights organizations “find legal ways to deny public access” and teach their members how to “manipulate the Constitution.”
The object of the professor’s article is to bemoan the diminishing access to beautiful places, beaches, riverbanks and other vistas. His solution is public ownership.
Public ownership of land is not a solution – it is a major problem that brings far worse consequences for society than the inconvenience of diminishing access to beautiful places.
Of course, there should be some public land, parks, nature reserves and the like. The people in each community who want open space within their community have always required their elected officials to use their local tax dollars to provide such places. The federal government, too, has provided millions of acres for national parks, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and countless other beautiful places. In fact, federal, state and local governments already own more than 40 percent of all land in America. More than a thousand conservancy organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, also own vast stretches of beautiful places. How much more is needed to satisfy the professor and others clamoring for more government land acquisition?
Nothing less than total control of the land will satisfy supporters of the U.N. policy, because, as the U.N. document says, “Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice.” Only when the United Nations controls the distribution of wealth and can insure that all people enjoy the benefits of the earth’s resources equally, will these folks be satisfied.
Should such a condition befall us, freedom – as envisioned in the U.S. Constitution – could no longer exist.
Private property ownership, including the right to use the property, and to exclude others from it, is one of the fundamental principles of freedom that has made America rise to the height of prosperity, power and prominence we now enjoy.
While we applaud America’s prosperity as a celebration of human achievement, others see this same prosperity as greed, indifference to the world’s poor, and theft and exploitation of the earth’s resources that are rightfully the property of all people.
The professor, and those who subscribe to the U.N. policy on land, disagree with the founders of the United States. They are teaching a generation of students that our founders were wrong; that their philosophy contributes to the problems that now confront society; that we should reject the very principles that make our country great, and adopt the same philosophy that failed in the Soviet Union, and virtually every other society based on collectivism.
Private ownership of land, subject to the “vagaries of the market,” is the only way to forge long-term solutions to resource use, open space, traffic and all the other problems that confront a growing civilization. The marketplace – where willing buyers trade with willing sellers – is a hard arbiter. There is nothing fair about it, nor are there any guarantees. But it is efficient and effective, and it will ultimately reflect the desires, ability and energy of the people who engage in it.
Government has moved to make the market more fair, which has benefited many people. Every effort by government to make the marketplace safer and more fair, brings with it a corresponding loss of efficiency. The work of our government since its creation has been to try to balance the marketplace between safety and efficiency.
There is a point where government regulation to provide safety and fairness overwhelms the efficiency of the market. For many property owners, especially in the ranching, logging, resource-use and development businesses, government regulations have already reached this point – and they have lost the ability to engage the market, or to pursue happiness, as is their right under the U.S. Constitution.
The professor’s analysis is wrong: There is no “epidemic” of private property. There is instead, an epidemic of government-owned “public” property, which, with every new land acquisition, destroys a little more of the foundation upon which America stands.