What are you passionate about? Sports? Fishing? Family life?
I’ve been surprised how intense I have become about what seems on the surface to be a rather obvious definition of private property.
To me private property has always meant real estate. But, it’s more, much more.
According to Russell Kirk (1918-1994) in his seventh principle of conservatism, private property is one’s real estate, AND ownership of the results of one’s labor.
Surprise – I couldn’t agree more. Where did this fuller meaning originate?
Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) was the original architect of this broader definition of private property. Property not only meant real estate, but the liberty of your life. To Locke no government or monarch can lay claim to ownership of an individual.
As revolutionary as those statements were the following fired the imagination of millions. “Every man has his own property in his own person.”
In other words, each person owns him/herself.
YOU OWN YOU.
You are thoroughly and forever private property and there is only one owner – you. This is a natural right, bestowed not on you by the hand of man, but derived by nature alone.
It is a self evident truth,
There has not been a time when it wasn’t thus,
A fundamental truth,
If one is capable of loving a truth,
I assuredly love this one above others,
As Nietzsche wrote, ” no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself,”
It is not a derivative,
You cannot follow the money,
And ever expect to uncover a deeper vein.
Good Enough To Start From
In my twenties, I envied those whose inheritance made it possible for them to have more advantage than I did. I changed. I realized that even though I had less than they did, what I did have, even if it was only my thoughts, I owned. For me that was good enough to start from.
No Point Zero
No one starts out from point zero. We come into this world with our lives. I own myself from the start. From the very start, my value grows without any conscious effort on my part.
Slowly I take charge and push myself.
With every push my value grows.
With every effort my power grows.
With every victory and defeat my confidence grows.
It doesn’t matter where I started from. It only matters that I started.
I become an übermensch. I become an overman.
I Up and Quit
There was only one job I had where I up and quit. One day, my employer said that “from 9 to 5 I own you.” I left the job. I was only eighteen at the time, and couldn’t adequately explain why I left, but evidently I reflexively reacted to a false premise.
No one owns another person. Not his labor, not anything. I freely contract to my employer my time and very best effort. In return he pays me. I own the pay. I should expect nothing more from the employer. He should not expect anything more from me. He has my loyalty, but must not mistake this for thinking I feel owned by him.
I Do Not Exist In Isolation
I believe in collective effort alongside private property. Even though I didn’t start out from zero, I did need incredible help in surviving upon birth.
My parents nurtured me and protected me as an infant. Early on they did every thing for me. I learned early on that we need each other. I respect and support the need for collective efforts to keep a community alive and progressive. I believe that truth all the way through. I believe that the liberty I enjoy over what I own is enhanced if I am willing to cooperate with others to sustain a healthy society.
My Personal Liberty
For close to 30 years I’ve been a management consultant. I’ve made hundreds of contracts with clients. At times those contracts have lasted a long time, other times not so long. I have never expected anything more than what we agreed to. That way, I maintain my independence. I never become dependent on that client. I never give up the thing that I treasure most – my personal liberty- I own that.
An Idea Started It
What got these ideas rolling in the United States of America? We can start with the Declaration Of Independence. ” All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Then there was the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. No person shall ” be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” This was part of the original Bill of Rights authored by James Madison.
And, the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . .” are legal. This is “Lincoln’s amendment.”
Bottom line? No one owns you. You own you. And you can execute that ownership any way you want in order to find happiness and enjoy liberty.
I have an unalienable right to what I own – my thoughts, my body, my labor, the results of my efforts, and yes, my real estate. Nothing has satisfied me more in this life. What can make one happier in this life? Nothing.
I pursued my interests knowing that whatever increase I produced was mine. ( By the way, I have no problem paying my share of a fair tax. I expect in return, services that support what I own.) I have no problem with public property. Public property serves the public welfare, private property also serves the collective good. The only difference is that private property is owned by a private citizen.
I Take the Bad with the Good
Regarding real estate, owning property is not always pleasant. In the 2007 real estate meltdown, I owned seven pieces of property. Over the years I had been able to build up my holdings in real estate. Then all of the sudden, what I had worked so hard to build up was taking me down.
At times, private property carries with it the burden, but not the joy, of ownership. I finally sold four of the seven pieces, to my relief. I didn’t walk away from any of the properties. I never defaulted on a payment. The reason for that was I had enough capital to support each investment I made. I accepted my responsibility for the ownership of those properties. It caused deep anxiety, but I held on. Why? It was my responsibility. I owned the property, and I owned the responsibility.
Again, real estate is only one type of private property.
Private property includes, more importantly but not exclusively, the ownership of myself. I think life would be full of turmoil for me personally if that principle did not exist. The emasculation of being owned would be too overwhelming for me.
Why You Get Into Trouble
I think any government, organization, or society will run into serious trouble if they do not have the idea of private ownership included in their originating documents.
I have no problem with government owning things. I do have a problem if they try to own everything. I believe that breeds hostility and rebellion. Humans need to have access to the full intent of private property.
Even when a government tries to control your speech, that’s tantamount to trying to own your speech. That’s tyranny and people will throw that kind of rule off. They will abandon their loyalty and good will toward that government or organization.
Likewise, those who pervert private property may be worse than those who attempt to control it. I have never been more frustrated than I was during the sub-prime lending crisis. Mortgage bankers, commercial bankers, investment bankers, insurance companies, and shallow politicians abandoned their responsibility to monitor private real estate and created the worst debt crisis in HISTORY.
They took the genius of private property and virtually destroyed it for a season.
Make no doubt about it, the ideal of private property is worth fighting for and preserving at all cost. On this point, there is consensus.
Whether you are the architect of liberal democracy like John Locke, or the creator of modern conservative theory like Russell Kirk, or the great liberator Abraham Lincoln, or the greatest philosopher of his age, Friedrich Nietzsche, there is a deep agreement that the full dimension of private property is sacrosanct.