Friday, September 21, 2007

A Libertarian View of Property Rights

"The officials of government, wishing to increase their power, and finding an increase of wealth an effective way to bring this about, seize some or all of what a person has earned--and since government has a monopoly of physical force within the geographical area of the nation, it has the power (but not the right) to do so. When this happens, of course, every citizen of that country is insecure: he knows that no matter how hard he works the government can swoop down on him at any time and confiscate his earnings and possessions. A person sees his life savings wiped out in a moment when the tax-collectors descend to deprive him of the fruits of his work; or, an industry which has been fifty years in the making and cost millions of dollars and millions of hours of time and planning, is nationalized overnight. Or the government, via inflation, cheapens the currency, so that hard-won dollars aren't worth anything any more. The effect of such actions, of course is that people lose hope and incentive: if no matter how hard they work the government agents can take it all away, why bother to work at all, for more than today's needs? Depriving people of property is depriving them of the means by which they live--the freedom of the individual to do what he wishes with his own life and to plan for the future. Indeed, only if property rights are respected is there any point to planning for the future and working to achieve one's goals." - John Hospers in "Libertarianism".

This quote does a pretty good job of showing one facet of the libertarian view of property rights. I think it makes a lot of sense. Property rights are an extremely basic foundational liberty. In a free society, the right to property even proceeds the right to free speech in importance. Without a proper emphasis on property rights, a society looses its vitality and ability to survive.

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