5 Reasons Property Rights No Longer Exist In America
Many Americans believe that the US is the freest - and therefore the greatest - nation in the world. If you asked these proud Americans what specifically separates the US from the rest of the world, they might tell you that in the US, citizens maintain their natural rights to own real property. The basic principle of 'property rights' affirms that all individuals are the sole proprietors of themselves and their justly acquired property, and that no person could justly damage, control, or take their property by force. Property is defined as any physical and/or consumable item. Unlike the citizens of many other nations, Americans are free to own houses, clothes, cars, money, weapons, and any other form of property without government interference.
If you look deeper, however, you may find that there are at least five major ways in which Americans’ property rights are perpetually violated and usurped by the US government and local and state governments.
1) Nearly every city and town in the US enforces zoning laws, generally regulated by a zoning board and sometimes influenced by the city council and/or state government. While the strictness of zoning laws vary massively from one municipality to another, they all violate property rights to some extent. These laws often control which rooms could be used for specific activities, how houses, buildings, businesses, sheds, and other structures are built, and much more. Building or disassembling decks, porches, sheds, interior renovation, paint colors, and many other things are regulated or prohibited in many cities and towns throughout the US. In many cases, people cannot even make minor renovations like putting up shelves without obtaining a permit from their zoning board. In many cases, permits are denied or certain renovations are outright illegal. Unless you live in a town with fewer than 1,000 residents, you likely cannot alter anything on your justly acquired property without permission from the government. If you violate zoning laws, expect to be fined and ultimately imprisoned.
These 22 pages outline how people in Manchester, NH may utilize their own homes. If you live in Manchester and you want to sleep in your basement, you better make sure that its ceiling is at least 7’6” and that it has two routes of egress. If it fails to satisfy these and all of the other basement codes, armed police may come to your house and punish you.
Keep in mind that true ownership of something means that you could use it or dispose of it in any way you wish. If you really owned your home or your property, you would be able to build a satanic temple in your backyard or snort cocaine in your basement without the government declaring it illegal and sending men with guns to punish you.
2) While we're on the topic of home ownership, let's explore whether that term 'ownership' is even appropriate. If you own something, it means that you have sole proprietorship of it and could therefore utilize or dispose of it in any way you wish. If you cannot utilize something without paying a mandatory and non-consensual fee, you don't really own it. People generally buy homes by paying the price that they and the seller consent to. Many people take out a large loan from a bank (mortgage) in order to pay the seller the agreed upon price. The buyer and the lender then agree to terms (amount, interest rates, etc) and the buyer agrees to pay the lender/bank back over a certain number of years. So far, every party affirmatively consented to every transaction. Nearly every American must pay another monthly fee to live in their homes, though. Nearly every local government in the US levies property taxes on all property owners. Regardless of whether people voted for the politicians and regardless of whether they utilize or benefit from the services funded by property taxes (property taxes are generally thought to be used to fund public schools - so why are childless people forced to pay?), every single property owner must pay the city government money every month. If they fail to pay, the city government sends armed men to punish, kidnap, or kill the property owner.
Bonus violation of property rights: Believing in true property rights would mean believing that each individual is the sole proprietor of all that they own, which includes their wages. If I demanded 40% of your weekly income under threat of force, I would be in violation of your natural right to keep your own property. Why do people get away with theft of wages simply because a few people voted for them? What about those who didn't vote for them?
3) If you'd like a simple example of the government violating property rights by stealing real property, you needn't look any further than the constitutionally approved theft known as 'eminent domain'. Yes, you read that correctly. The US Constitution empowers the federal government to seize any land for a purpose that is determined (by the federal government) to be for the benefit of the public. The Constitution does require that the federal government pay the property owner market value for their property, but that does not actually benefit the property owners much. In Kelo Vs. City of New London, the Democrat judges on the US Supreme Court affirmed that local governments could steal any property from individuals that they wanted - even if the new use of the property hardly and indirectly benefited the public. (The city planned to sell Susette Kelo’s land to Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company)
Tomorrow, your city or town council could take your house from you. They might pay you what they claim is market value. They might demolish your house and build a road through the property. They might give your property to one of those evil corporations. Once you're homeless, confused, and furious after being betrayed by your beloved government, will it even matter what they use your property for?
4) Actually, the government could take your house tomorrow and pay you nothing for it. In fact, they could steal any property you own without even having a warrant, conviction, or any court ruling against you. Governments of every level and in every area of the US have been doing this for decades, but they refer to it as ‘civil asset forfeiture’. This makes it sound more ‘civil’ and less like ‘violent, illegal, theft’. Simply put, civil asset forfeiture involves a government agency/law enforcement taking property that they believe may have been used in a crime or may be used in a crime in the future. If you are carrying cash or a firearm or driving an expensive car, a cop need only claim that you seem like a drug kingpin, and he could literally seize your property.
When a justification is demanded, law enforcement and government officials generally explain that when a cop encounters a lot of cash, firearms, ammunition, or other such property, it's best to confiscate them as soon as possible so that if they are being used in illegal gang operations, the gang is immediately curtailed by the seizure of money or weaponry. The problem, however, is that this practice flies in the face of property rights, due process, personal freedom, and skepticism of government, all of which are important American principles. Evidently, very few Americans still believe that individuals ought to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers.
Upon assuming office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for local law enforcement agencies to increase the practice of civil asset forfeiture.
5) As I alluded to earlier, humans have a natural right to own property. This includes any type of physical property, including steel, plastic, lead, and any other material that the individual might wish to own. In 1934, however, Democrat hero, President Franklin Roosevelt created federal laws that prohibited free Americans from owning certain items, including suppressors and various types of firearms (Despite zero firearm laws existing in the US before 1934, the nation had much fewer mass shootings). Today, the federal government seems to enforce infinite laws which restrict the natural rights of Americans to own things. Additionally, many states and many cities have stricter firearm and ammunition laws than the federal government. The gun control laws in NYC make it illegal to have any part of any firearm or ammunition. This goes as far as criminalizing the possession of a single shell casing. If Americans had property rights, no items would be illegal to own.
There are many more examples of governmental violations of our property rights. From prohibiting tinted windows on cars (but allowing them on SUVs) to taxing Americans for every single transaction they make, the government has increasingly assaulted the most foundational human right. Being that the Republican and Democratic parties have largely supported the perpetual transfer of property rights from individuals to the government, the simplest and most effective way to turn this authoritarian trend around is by electing Libertarians to replace every Republican and Democrat in the nation. We’ve been coerced into voting for Rs and Ds for over a century and things have only gotten worse. Electing Libertarians is a no-risk proposition.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views held by The Liberty Block or any of its contributors or members.