While focusing on the Islamic barbarians who want to destroy us, it’s easy to lose sight of our own government’s transgressions against our most fundamental rights. The ever-increasing number of eminent-domain stories we read about and watch on television serve as a grim reminder that even though we live in a relatively free country, we are not totally free by a long shot.
Before we get too distracted by a little inconvenience such as a nuclear suitcase bomb or shopping-center homicide incident, perhaps it’s a good time to go back and review what we’re trying to protect in the first place: the fundamentals of liberty.
In that vein, nothing could be more fundamental than property rights. Government property theft – euphemistically referred to as “eminent domain” – flies in the face of property rights.
There are only three legitimate ways to view property:
- Anyone has a right to interfere with or take anyone else’s property whenever he pleases.
- Some people have a right to interfere with or take the property of other people whenever they please.
- No one has a right to interfere with or take anyone else’s property – at any time – without his permission.
In No. 1, I’m talking about lawlessness and the absence of a generally accepted code of conduct. In all civilized countries, governments at least make a pretense of trying to prevent lawlessness. Obviously, some governments do a better job at this than others. Your property is a lot safer in, say, Belgium than it is in Mozambique.
Regardless, at least in theory, it is a government’s primary job to protect the lives and property of its citizens. In fact, many would argue that this is government’s only legitimate function. In the United States, everything the government does beyond this is a violation of the Constitution.
No. 2 is where eminent domain comes in. For example, politically well-connected real estate developers are often able to get government to use force against people who refuse to sell their properties. In such cases, the government unilaterally decides how much to pay the owner for the involuntary sale of his property.
On its face, this is, of course, an uncivilized action. Thus, to one extent or another, it would be fair to say that all countries are uncivilized.
Finally, No. 3: No one has a right to interfere with or take anyone else’s property – at any time – without his permission. While this is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon – anywhere on this planet – it is the standard that all civilized people of goodwill should use as a guide to their actions.
Put another way, the most basic rule of liberty is that no one has any right to interfere with or take anyone’s property – which includes his body and everything he owns – regardless of the rationale used. The excuse usually given for taking someone’s property by force is that it is an action that is “in the public good.”
The reality, however, is that eminent domain is usually in the best interest of some real estate developer and the government (which makes money from the property’s increased tax base). Technically speaking, there is no such entity as “the public.” “The public” is but an umbrella term for thousands, or millions, of individuals – each with their own idea of what is good or bad for them.
Those who babble about the public good being superior to individual rights are either stupid or have a vested interest in the government’s taking someone’s property by force and handing it to someone else – preferably them!
Of course, those inflicted with a serious brain disorder known as “socialism” would have you believe that freedom and property rights are two different issues. Totally false. On the contrary, property rights are an integral part of freedom.
A free person has a right to enjoy all of the fruits of his labor, without interference from anyone else. When a person’s property rights are violated, his freedom is violated – period.
When each individual is allowed to pursue activities that he and he alone deems to be in his best interest – so long as he is not committing aggression against anyone else – the public good is best served. Eminent domain is therefore a blatant form of aggression, and aggression is most decidedly not in the best interest of “the public.”
By all means, we need to focus on the barbarians at, and inside of, our gates. But let’s also keep one eye on the domestic dragon that has an addiction for chomping away at the very thing we are trying to protect – our freedom.
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