Property Rights

Liberty Cannot Exist Without Private Property

The goal of Libertas Institute is to reach out to people across the political spectrum throughout the state of Utah and to promote the three pillars of good government: individual liberty, private property, and free enterprise.  It is our belief that adherence to these principles will increase the well-being of everyone in Utah.  He who sows liberty can expect to reap peace and prosperity.

Promoting liberty cannot be accomplished without a proper respect for private property rights. But what is meant by the term private property?  Generally speaking, private property is the “employment, control, ownership, ability to dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property…”

Private property rights are derived at the fundamental level by a person’s inherent right to control his own body and the work of his own hands.  John Locke, a 17th century scholar whose philosophies and writings influenced such notables as William Penn, Thomas Paine, George Mason, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire, put it this way in his Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government:  “…every Man has a property in his own person. This no body has any right to but himself. The Labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.” He continues: “The great and chief end therefore, of mens uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”

And so it is, for in what way might a man be free if he cannot control his own physical body and if he cannot benefit from his own labor?  It is from this most basic principle that private property rights are derived.  In fact, almost all of our natural rights are an extension of private property rights.  Arthur Lee of Virginia wrote in 1775 that property is “the guardian of all other rights.”  Similarly, the Supreme Court declared in 1897 that “In a free government almost all other rights would become worthless if the government possessed power over the private fortune of every citizen.”

An understanding of the sacrosanct importance of the principles of private property rights is the prism through which the Center for Private Property will review current and proposed policies at the federal, state, and local levels.