Today I received a copy of a newspaper article about the amount of homes being taken over by the government in a little town in metro Atlanta. Because of traffic congestion, the space is needed for new highway construction.
A procedure that dates back to the colonial days, eminent domain allows the government to legally take over private property for “the greater good.” The government is required to pay the home and landowner but sometimes the fight goes on for years. Eventually the property owner loses because the property can be condemned and arbitrarily taken, whether the owner agrees or not.
Usually the property is taken for roads, schools, or some kind of government structure. Yet now-a- day, some are losing their property by coercion and confiscation to make way for other ventures like shopping centers, among other things.
So what is a free society?
Is it freedom to vote/ worship as we please? Freedom to travel where we please? Is freedom a condition where we can express opinions in writing or verbally without fear of arrest? Is freedom a situation whereby we are left alone to teach and raise our children as we see fit?
Yes, I maintain all these things are attributes of freedom. In fact, they are extremely vital parts of the whole fabric of freedom. Nevertheless, an overpowering item is the core base of freedom in a society that claims to be free and cannot be free if this important part of the equation is missing. That to which I refer is the ownership of private property. And ownership of property is a total concept.
If conditions of restrictions, rules, regulations, policies, and edicts are placed upon private property, one does not own it. In fact, it’s simply a sharecropper type arrangement where the land is subject to someone other than the owner.
It seems the area of the greatest misunderstanding about freedom is in ownership of private property.
Why is private ownership important? Why can’t we all live in a collective society where no one owns anything? Because it is the very nature of man to be a consumer and destroyer in order to survive.
We use things up. Trees are cut down for fire, lumber, and paper. The tree is destroyed. An animal is killed for food. Man eats and destroys the food. Man owns a plot of land, grows corn beans, potatoes, and tomatoes, and he destroys by consumption. Man takes things from nature, reworks and changes them to suit his scheme of things, to fit his purpose in life to sustain life, pursue happiness, and be free.
Consequently, he must own and be able to destroy things to sustain life. Therefore, the importance of private ownership lies in the nature of man as he is. His nature compels him to own things. His nature compels him to destroy things.
However, it does not seem inherent in man and animals to destroy their own kind. Nevertheless, there are exceptions that are not always honored. In most civilized societies the world over, ownership of private property is preferable to public ownership.
Beginning with the premise, human beings have a right to live, and everyone has the same right. There must be recognition of certain criteria of individual property ownership. And in this connection, it has been done by recognition of boundaries.
Whether it’s food, clothing, or shelter, in order to be owned, it must have a boundary. This must be extended to intangible things such as music, ideas, and contracts—commonly referred to as intellectual property rights. But what all have in common in order to be privately owned is a boundary that must be established and recognized.
One can own a bottle of perfume, but once sprayed into the atmosphere, it has no boundary. One can’t own love, as it has no boundary. And you can only own that which is inside the boundaries of that ownership. To cross over another’s boundary without permission of the owner constitutes a trespass. Ownership is total and always exists within boundaries.
Returning to the story I began with regarding the destruction of homes by the government to build roads to relieve congestion, this is a testimony as to who the real owner is. The person who is the “real” owner has the final authority to order the destruction, which in this case is the government. And I’m not speaking of the wisdom of destruction, or non-wisdom, but the power of authority to destroy.
When we examine the great moral guide of the Ten Commandments, seven address property rights and an admonition to respect the property rights of others. When we examine and recognize the universality of the significance of ownership of property and understand what constitutes ownership–from a person’s life to his ideas—we learn about the morality of ownership and its total concept as being the very base of individual freedom.
In this great country, we as citizens have lost a great deal of our individual freedom—little by little, step by step, day by day, month by month, and year by year. Why is that?
One of the reasons I suggest is because many think the totality of their freedom lies in speech, worship, travel, and voting. And in no way do I mean to suggest these areas are not important components of one’s freedom, because they are, and to take away any of them would diminish one’s individual freedom.
However, the bedrock of freedom is one’s ability to own property privately. And it is this core base that has been trampled upon, representative of the erosion of all of our freedoms.
Like a diamond cut with various facets to reflect light from many angles, so goes the shining light of freedom. It too has many facets and stands on a base of ownership of private property.
This truth is self-evident. Are we born knowing this? Perhaps not. And if not, it’s a matter of discovery.
Once in bondage of a totalitarian state of socialism, it’s too late to extricate ourselves. Obviously, we are far down that road today. You may be saying to yourself, “so what? What can I do about it?”
To that I say, not anything, until you inform yourself and acknowledge where we are today.
Let Freedom Ring!