Thursday, January 12, 2017
Understanding Your Most Fundamental Rights - Part 3
By Bill Norton, Center for Self-Governance, Administrative Staff
Your property is the sum of, or fruit of, your life and liberty. You purchase your property, not with money, but with your life and liberty.
Say you make $60,000 per year and you purchase a car for $30,000 and someone steals that car. If you never get the car back what else will you also never get back? The thief has not only stolen your car, but has stolen six months of your life and liberty. You will never get that six months back or the liberty you used to work for and purchase the car.
Remember your algebra teacher taught that if you take something from one side of the equal sign, you must take an equal measure from the other side. If you remove property, then you must remove life and liberty as well.
What is Our Property? Using the equation LIFE+LIBERTY=PROPERTY, other than our physical property, what else is our property?
Education: We spend our life and liberty acquiring knowledge. Students who choose to make the sacrifice know they spend a tremendous amount of their life and liberty to get an education, aside from the monetary cost.
Intellectual Property: We spend our life and liberty to invent. This is why we have copyright and patent laws.
Relationships: We spend our life and liberty cultivating relationships. Relationships often fail when one party is not willing to sacrifice life and liberty for the other.
Reputation: We spend our life and liberty contributing to society and building our reputation.
Our Good Works: We sacrifice our life and liberty for others. This is what makes charity so sacred—we literally give our life and liberty to another individual by our charitable acts. It is not charity if we do not freely give our life and liberty. If it is taken from us without our consent, we call it theft.
It is very interesting to observe the difference between voluntary, charitable acts and forced welfare. When a person freely helps another it unites the two together by compassion of the giver and gratitude of the receiver. On the contrary, forced “charity” divides the two by resentment of the giver and entitlement of the receiver.
If our good works are our property, what about our bad works? Have you ever heard of “owning your sins?” We own them because we purchase our bad works with our life and liberty.
The definition of property as Life+Liberty=Property allows us to evaluate our lives—we know the value that we place on our life and liberty by the property we are purchasing with that life and liberty. The purpose of life is to obtain the things of real value, things that bring true happiness. In other words, to be free to spend our life and liberty on the pursuit of happiness.
Thomas Jefferson said: “Happiness…does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed [us], but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.”
Remember that property itself is not sacred, but the life and liberty connected to that property are. Supreme Court Justice Sutherland noted that taking a person’s property “is … to leave him a slave.” Taking of property without consent is bondage because in the taking, that individual is losing the fruit of their life and liberty.
There are different degrees of bondage, slavery being the worst. But all forms of bondage come as a result of taking the fruit of one’s labor—taking the fruit of their life and liberty.
In this same spirit, Abraham Lincoln once said: “Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently to build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence... it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.”
We have certain unalienable rights from the laws of nature and of nature’s God. To protect those rights we establish government by our consent. Because government is created by our consent, government can only do that which we have the right to do ourselves. We cannot delegate to government anything that would be illegal if we were to do it ourselves.
Our fundamental rights are life, liberty, and property. They are inseparably connected, meaning we cannot be deprived of one without being deprived of the others. The fundamental purpose of government is to protect our life and liberty, by protecting our property.
Property rights are essential to liberty. John Adams summed it up beautifully. He saw private property as the most important single foundation undergirding human liberty and human happiness. He said: “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. PROPERTY MUST BE SECURED OR LIBERTY CANNOT EXIST.”
The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. They may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, go to CenterForSelfGovernance.com.