Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Private Property, RIP = part IV

Quin Hillyer's column blasting the Kelo decision is spot-on. Moreover, he attacks the majority's reasoning better than most who have criticized the decision. Excerpt:

Tyranny, as ever, creeps in on little cat feet. Listen more closely, and you'll hear the insistent whisperings of Big Brother, plotting to confiscate our most cherished liberties.

Way back in the Calder vs. Bull case in 1798, Justice Samuel Chase explained why this notion of seizing land for the private use of another is an affront to freedom: "A law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it."

Or as James Madison, the author of the Fifth Amendment, wrote: "That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest."

Madison and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were all devotees of the political theorist John Locke. All believed, as Locke did, that private property is the foundation of, indeed the very reason for the establishment of, any legitimate government.

Over and over, Locke explained that it was to secure property -- not capital or wealth, necessarily, but a homestead, land, the fruit of one's own labors -- that men entered into the social compact of a government in the first place. Without private property, government by its very nature becomes a tyranny.

"The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of property is the end of government," Locke wrote. "Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or legislative power of any common-wealth, can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily."

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