Good fences make good neighbors. Where property rights can be legally defended, even the most incompatible people can live peacefully and securely side by side. When the law supports the right to defend one’s property, there exists a climate of mutual respect for the property rights of all. Morality aside, if I know that my attempt to commit theft against my neighbor will be met by sufficient defense, I will surely consider that when evaluating the risks associated with thievery.
When people have confidence that the law will protect their right to defend their own property from aggressors, the whims of the majority, and the edicts of rulers, their creativity, energy, and resources can be unleashed to pursue their individual interests and focus their efforts on developing goods and services in the market economy. In this environment, people are freed up to serve themselves and their fellow man, acquire wealth (property) for themselves, and control their wealth as they see fit rather than expending that same energy jumping through compulsory bureaucratic hoops.
When it comes to government’s role in property rights, either we live in a society free from the threat of government aggression against our property or we live under varying degrees of coercion by an organized group of people who seek to control the resources of others in order to enforce bureaucratic central planning, expropriation, monopolies, corporatism, and the like.
Under which condition would you prefer to live?
We can easily appreciate the benefits of property rights, but just what is “property”? Simply put, your property is the fruit of your labor. You are not a slave to another human or group of humans. You own your own life. Therefore, the time and energy you spend producing things of value or providing services results in property. This may also be referred to as wealth or capital. Since you are the sole owner of your property, only you have the right to control how your property is used or disposed of. No other individual or group of individuals has this right over your property. To assert that they do would mean that you do not own yourself.
Just to reiterate an obvious point, others have the same rights as you. They also own their lives and have the right to control the use of their property and to defend it from aggression. So, for instance, using your property (a bulldozer, for example) to destroy your neighbor’s property (their home) because you “see fit” to do so, can and should be met with adequate defense. Additionally, it is fully justifiable for people to pool their resources to form a voluntary organization, such as a government, charged with the responsibility of defending property in a defined area. However, it is a perversion of the law for people to use the legal force government to commit acts of aggression against others, such as breaking into or bulldozing their neighbor’s home.
The bottom line is this: The purpose of a just government is to protect life, liberty, and property.
I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that most people would say that theft and destruction of other people’s property is wrong. So where do you stand on this? Do you agree that theft and destruction of private property is immoral? But what if the ends justify the means? For example, if the ends benefit the greater good or a particular group of people, then do you believe that the destruction of people’s private property is acceptable?
If you are among those who believe the ends justify the means, you are not alone. For evidence, just take a look at most legislation that passes any legislative body at any level of government.
Further, if you are among those who believe the ends justify the means, then exactly WHO do you believe should have the privilege of deciding which ends are worthy of initiating aggression against the private property of you and your neighbors to achieve? Should decisions like this be left to the majority? Should determining when it is justifiable to trample the rights of some for the benefit of others be left to democratically elected representatives?
Once upon a time, two wolves and a sheep voted on what to have for dinner. The result was chaos, destruction, and death.
Don’t tread on ME? Don’t tread on your neighbor using the government as a weapon.