Property Rights

Now is a season of confusing political interests and ideas. People want this special interest or that special interest, or one candidate has a different view and opinion than another candidate; all because of what maybe promised if a certain candidate is elected. What is a voter to do, especially during this season of confusing politics?

To make the best and educated decisions we only have to return to the basics! Those basic principles include God’s laws and the U.S. Constitution, which He gave to mankind to govern ourselves. The Constitution wasn’t anything really new, but was a continuance of the Mosaic Law, that God gave to the children of Israel, in order to govern themselves after leaving Egypt. Within these Sacred Laws we find such commandments as: “Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is they neighbor’s.” Both of these commandments deal with the right to be safe within one’s own property, safety to worship how one pleases, makes money as they please (intellectual property or ideas) as well as their physical property and money; the right to defend that property and all lives within that property.

We read in James Madison’s (the “Father of the Constitution”) National Gazette article (dated March 29, 1792) where he boldly declares that ideas, money, religious beliefs, as well as one’s physical property need to be protected at all costs; that this was government’s sole purpose. Then we read John Adam’s (one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence) 1787 writings to learn what is at stake at not protecting property rights.

          “Suppose a nation, rich and poor, high and low, ten millions in number, all assembled together; not more than one or two millions will have lands, houses, or any personal property; if we take into the account the women and children, or even if we leave them out of the question, a great majority of every nation is wholly destitute of property, except a small quantity of clothes, and a few trifles of other moveables. Would Mr. Nedham be responsible that, if all were to be decided by a vote of the majority, the eight or nine millions who have no property, would not think of usurping over the rights of the one or two millions who have? Property is surely a right of man- kind as real as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors. Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of everything be demanded, and voted. What would be the consequence of this? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them. 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. If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”

Now let us look at the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 Section 2) and the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights).  The first amendment protects our free speech, association and freedom of conscience (religious liberty).  The second amendment protects all of our prop-erty rights, either against criminals, invaders from other lands, or even our own government.  It is our right to defend our property with whatever we see fit.  The third amendment prohibits the government at any level from quartering their troops (or government agents) within our property.  The fourth amendment prohibits government from seizing our property, and further declares that we must be safe within our property:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fifth Amendment deals with several aspects but only one effects property rights, the concept of eminent domain. This specifically addresses and even forces any level of govern-ment to pay ‘fair compensation for property’ that they need to purchase for necessary projects.  It is NOT a pass for government to seize and pay whatever they deem as ‘just’ for that property (that is proper ‘eminent domain’).  The property owner is at all times in control of the sale of his property, or should be.  This amendment guarantees this right.  (It also mentions grand juries, self incrimination, due process [as does the sixth amendment] and double jeopardy, too; but they don’t really deal with property, which is the subject of this paper.)

The seventh and eighth amendments protect our ideas and our money; ideas/money may be protected via a civil law suit, and they address a prohibition against excessive fees and punishments.