Private Property Is Basis Of All Rights


by Paul Hanley, Payson

The April 6, 2001 issue (of the Roundup) contained an interesting fantasy piece by Professor Richard E. Wentz. I completely agreed with exactly one sentence of his, to wit, "The point is, the understanding and practice of private property must change if we are to survive in this cosmos." Unfortunately the remainder of his piece clouded the insight in that statement.

I certainly agree that private property rights are largely misunderstood. But the answer is not, as Wentz believes, to write them off as just another cause of conflict, terrorism and class warfare. Whatever Wentz was "rethinking," it wasn't private property.

I believe that private property is the practical basis of all our rights.

Try to imagine a right to free speech, without the ability to buy the newspaper of your choice, because your money isn't your property. Also remember that the Payson Roundup wouldn't be private property, either but somehow you would still have free speech?

Or maybe you can imagine a right to protection from unwarranted search and seizure of your property, except you don't really have any property at least not if Professor Wentz had his way.

As for me, I can't imagine any real, justifiable right that doesn't depend for its practice on property rights. What about religion, you say? I say, what about Bibles, churches and the clothes you wear to protect your Christian decency? Are they, or are they not, someone's private property? If not, are you really free?

A little reflection, I believe, shows the same relationship for all rights.

Contrary to Wentz's assertions, the issue isn't just the use of the "thing" in question. Private property is also about control; it's about decisions, and who has the right to make them.

If the person controlling the "thing" is the same person who earned it (paid for it), that is just. If Wentz is the decision-maker, even though all he did to give value to the property in question is to talk about how it's not really property, that is unjust.

Professor Wentz asks, "Is it possible to have a home to call your own and still walk where you like?" The true answer depends on whether you "like" to walk on other people's property. If you do, the answer is no. And no amount of utopian fantasy will change that.

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