Property Rights Sacred?
…Abraham Lincoln once said:
Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some would be rich shows that others may become rich and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently to build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence…I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. (Quoted in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, May 1955, p. 7.)
Primary Purpose of Government Is to Protect Property
The early American colonists had much to say about property and property rights because it was a critical issue leading to the Revolutionary War. The effort of the Crown to take their property through various kinds of taxation without their consent (either individually or through their representatives) was denounced as a violation of the English constitution and English common law. They often quoted John Locke, who had said:
The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent. For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that [property] by entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it. (Second Essay Concerning Civil Government, p. 57, par. 138.)
Property Right Essential to Liberty
John Adams saw private property as the most important single foundation stone undergirding human liberty and human happinness. He said:
The moment the 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 SECURED OR LIBERTY CANNOT EXIST. (Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, 10 volx [Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850-56], 6:9, 280; emphasis added.)
Should Government Take from the “Haves” and Give to the “Have Nots”?
As we have pointed out earlier, one of the worst sins of government, according to the Founders, was the exercise of its coercive taxing powers to take property from one group and give it to another. In our own day, when the government has imposed a multi-hundred-billion-dollar budget on the American people with about one half being “transfer payments” from the tax-paying public to the wards of the government, the following words of James Madison may sound strange:
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort…This being the end of government, that alone is not a just government…nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest. (Saul K. Padover, ed., The Complete Madison [New York: Harper and Bros., 1953], p. 267.)—From the 5000 Year Leap
To be continued…