Property Rights and the Free Press
Not as if the point hasn't been made often by now, but repeating it may be of some benefit: Without a firm protection of the right to private property, the rights to freedom of speech, press, religious worship, etc., are under constant threat.
The most recent demonstration of this is happening in Argentina, although Venezuela has also served as a recent case in point. As reported by the BBC, "Argentina's government wins control of newsprint supplies, amid a long-running feud between the president and a major media group..." It appears that the legislature caved in to pressure from the president of Argentina and basically nationalized all the supplies that are needed to run an independent press. As the BBC put it, "The legislation, which passed in the lower house last week, says the production, sale and distribution of newsprint is of national interest."
Of course, even if true, nothing follows about how the government ought to wrest control of the "production, sale and distribution of newsprint." If anything, if it is true and "the production, sale and distribution of newsprint" is in the national interest – allowing that this means that it is generally an important part of the society – it is least secure when government takes control of these matters. The same principle holds for education. Its importance by no stretch of the imagination justifies placing it under government jurisdiction.
What too many folks do not grasp is that governments are agencies run by some members of a society and it is most unwise to put these members in control of nearly anything, let alone the dissemination of knowledge and information. If there is a solid enough constitution in place, firmly upheld, perhaps the protection of individual rights might be placed in the hands of the government, provided the government can be kept impartial as it adjudicates disputes, protects rights, etc. But that itself is called into serious question by examples such as the Argentinian case where instead of protecting property rights, and thus the right to freedom of the press, government is the main violator of them.
Ironically, it is those on the political left who are most hostile to private property rights. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels made this clear in The Communist Manifesto where they declared that the very first task of socialists is to abolish private property rights. Yet it is just such cantankerous folks as communists who most need the protection of their private property rights; otherwise their many opponents will have no trouble invading their spheres from which they are mounting their challenge to the status quo. (This itself suggests quite strongly that the Left's political viewpoint is quite confused!)
All this also calls to mind how fiercely some of the Left's most prominent platforms decry the claim that America is in any way exceptional. Yet it really is, as exemplified in the now sadly fading American tradition of serious respect and legal protection of the right to private property.
In its eagerness to undermine free-market capitalism the Left is willing to sacrifice its major bulwark against those who would oppress it. But it just will not work – without the protection of private property rights there is no freedom of the press and no effective political freedom either, the freedom needed to institute change in society's political institutions which the Left is so hell-bent on doing.
Of course, much of this is relatively novel in the annals of politics across human history and the globe. The more usual state of affairs is that which we now see in Argentina and many other countries where dissent is eagerly being suppressed by the thugs who rule. Perhaps in time the vitality of the right to private property for all kinds of human endeavors – economic, educational, religious, scientific, journalistic, etc. – will be widely recognized. But as with freedom on all fronts, that requires eternal vigilance.
Posted by James Jaeger on 12/27/11 05:44 PM
GOVERNMENT TAKINGS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY
Bunker purchased a dilapidated, historic farmhouse and barn in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania in 1983. The property's deed had a 'covenant agreement' (an historic easement) on it by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a large quasi-private, government-sanctioned Trust in Washington DC. After Bunker had spent about 40 years meticulously preserving and fixing up the house and barn -- even employing Amish craftsmen for intricate reconstruction -- the National Trust decided that it wanted Bunker to 'contribute' his house and barn to their general neighborhood preservation project, a multi-million dollar project that included three other buildings and a mill.
After many years of negotiation, Bunker and the National Trust were unable to arrive at an equitable agreement. The National Trust then hired local lawyers to find a way to acquire Bunker's property, with or without his cooperation. To this end, they found a minor infraction on the 'covenant agreement' and used this to open a series of legal actions. The National Trust claimed that Bunker had installed some 'non-historic' windows in his house. Bunker countered that he had express authorization from the National Trust's chief architect to install the windows. He further explained that the windows were temporary to keep destructive weather out of the house while he focused his attention on restoration of the barn, much of which was missing a roof. See short video tour of the barn at Click to view link In reaction to this, the lawyers for the National Trust forbid the chief architect from having any further communications with Bunker and proceeded to use the windows to build their case.
To facilitate their acquisition plans, the National Trust then requested Bunker post an intimidating $400,000 bond and comply with a growing list of dictates. When Bunker was unwilling to comply, they used this as further "grounds" to step up their legal harassment for another four years. This may have caused Bunker serious health problems, for this legal harassment culminated in the National Trust physically sending in a small armada of lawyers, armed guards and a constable to literally throw him and his fiancée out of his house. As this abuse was escalating, Bunker and his family hired an MAI appraiser to evaluate the house, barn and 1.5 acres. The appraisal came in just over $400,000 but in August of 2011, the National Trust, without consulting Bunker as to listing price -- or even getting his signature on the sale agreement -- sold the house and barn for $145,000 -- just enough to cover their legal fees and other expenses, such as the police powers they improperly used against a citizen.
We are now seeking counsel, on a contingency basis, that would be able and willing to bring legal action against the National Trust (Click to view link) and possibly the 'receiver'. We believe the National Trust has no Constitutional authority to deed restrict or confiscate private property no matter what 'social good' is claimed and the court-appointed receiver may have violated her fiduciary responsibilities when she sold the property for way under market value. Details and contact information at Click to view link
Posted by NAPpy on 12/23/11 08:09 PM
Hoppe and Mises made a convincing arument (to me, anyways) that all rights are property rights, derived from the axiom of argumentation.
Posted by dave jr on 12/23/11 01:31 PM
"The legislation, which passed in the lower house last week, says the production, sale and distribution of newsprint is of national interest."
But then governments the world over make the leap that "national interest" justifies control, confiscation or coercion to sell. This is the behavior of a common criminal.