Saturday, June 25, 2005

Some thoughts on property rights

Given the growing concern over the diminution of property rights, and the recent and ongoing arguments here on that question, it seems timely to post Tom Bethell's chapter on The Blessings of Property (taken from his book The Noblest Triumph), and Tibor Machans's authoritative piece on the Right to Private Property: "The institution of the right to private property," says Tibor, "is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom, including free trade, is to flourish."

Here too are some further thoughts on property and freedom:

They who have no property can have no freedom. --Stephen Hopkins

The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property. --Karl Marx

The right to life is the source of all rights--and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave. --Ayn Rand

If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization. --Ludwig von Mises

Where there is no private ownership, individuals can be bent to the will of the state, under threat of starvation. --attrib. to Leon Trotsky

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. --Frederic Bastiat

The moment that idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the Laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist. --John Adams

Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. -- Thomas Jefferson

No other rights are safe where property is not safe. --Daniel Webster

The right of distribution over private property is the essence of freedom. --Merrill Jenkin

Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that human rights are superior to property rights simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of human. --Ayn Rand

If we would have civilization and the exertion indispensable to its success, we must have property; if we have property, we must have its rights; if we have the rights of property, we must take those consequences of the rights of property which are inseparable from the rights themselves. --James Fennimore Cooper

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can. --Samuel Adams

A man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. --James Madison

The American moron . . . wants to keep his Ford, even at the cost of losing the Bill of Rights. --H. L. Mencken

Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty. --John Adams

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. --James Madison

Liberty and property is the great national cry of the English. . . It is the cry of nature. --Voltaire

The great chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonweaths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property. --John Locke

The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property, or something formally like it. --Garret Hardin

It is precisely those things which belong to "the people" which have historically been despoiled- wild creatures, the air, and waterways being notable examples. This goes to the heart of why property rights are socially important in the first place. Property rights mean self-interested monitors. No owned creatures are in danger of extinction. No owned forests are in danger of being leveled. No one kills the goose that lays the golden egg when it is his goose. --Thomas Sowell

The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights. --Potter Stewart

Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property. --Ayn Rand

No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent. --John Jay

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. --Theodore Roosevelt

The principles laid down in this opinion affect the very essence of constitutional liberty and security. They reach further than the concrete form of the case then before the court, with its adventitious circumstances; they apply to all invasions on the part of the government and its employes of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life. It is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers, that constitutes the essence of the offense; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property, where that right has never been forfeited by his conviction of some public offense. . . -- Decision in Boyd v. US, 116 U.S. 616 (1886)

Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ---C.S. Lewis

Whenever the legislators endeavor 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 further obedience. . . -- John Locke

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