Main Pillars of Liberalism: Property Rights
Property rights are the right to use your property in peace. Property could be a piece of land, a building, an item, income, or an invention. In a liberal constitutional society, property rights are inviolable, which means that you own your life and your property, and no one else has the right to interfere with it as long as you are peaceful.
Property rights function optimally in a constitutional society with a core and constitution that protect the individual’s rights to live in peace. If you have a Constitution and a legal framework that open the door to giving people rights beyond living in peace, this necessarily has a negative effect on peaceful existence.
A concrete example: If people have a statutory right to free education, others must pay for this with their property. This is not a matter of volunteering, but of compulsion. Thus, property rights are curtailed and are subject to arbitrary changes based on the wishes and suggestions of politicians or the majority.
Why Do We Have Property Rights?
What is the reason behind the concept of private property rights existing at all, and where do they come from? Author and blogger Onar Åm has said the following about this exact matter:
We humans are a very special species. We are born without a warm coat, without sharp claws and teeth, without thick bones to protect us, without big muscles to give us strength and speed. We are born as frail, naked cripples into this world. The only thing we are equipped with is our brain, with which we can make clothing, weapons for hunting and protection, houses to keep us warm and dry, and so on.
In short, we humans are not born with everything we need to survive. We have to CREATE the things we need in form of property. Property is an extension of our body, our human way of life. Without property we die. Property is as natural for us humans as fur is for the bear.
How Do You Acquire Property?
You acquire property peacefully in one of three ways:
- By «combining your labor with uninhabited nature»
- By trading with other people
- Ved å motta en gave fra en annen person eller gruppe
Enlightenment philosopher John Locke developed a theory for property rights, and his idea was that by «combining one’s work» with «the state of nature» you acquire property rights. What you create is yours, it is your property.
«The Answer to Everything»
One intriguing aspect of property rights is the fact that they can be used to solve disputes and problems that traditional politicians argue about and try to change using various laws and regulations. As mentioned, property rights are complete and unyielding under the rule of law. No, not even government has the right to expropriate private property under the the pretext of «the common good».
An example: A group of conservationists pool their resources to buy a large wooded area, where plants and animals can live in peace away from humans. No one else has the right to harm neither plants or animals in this area. Thus, animal and nature conservation has been solved using private property, and not because some random laws extend rights to animals and nature.
David against Goliath
Another example: A factory and a housing complex are neighbors. The factory is represented by a powerful and wealthy company, while residents of the housing complex are just regular people. The factory pollutes and makes the lives of the neighbors miserable. Despite the fact that the company is large and rich, the regular people living next door win the ensuing trial, because the factory has allowed their property to violate the property of the neighbors. Once again, ownership solves the problem.
One possible legal practice is to say that the first comer has the right, meaning that whoever established themselves first in an area has precedence in most neighbor disputes. However, this does not apply, if the first comer inflicts great damages on the neighbors as in the case above.
The Body and Property
Can you sell your body as property? There are really two answers:
- Yes: As long as this is temporary and does not go against the wishes of the individual
- No: You can never sell your body in order to become an (involuntary) slave for life. Individual rights always apply no matter what in a liberal constitutional society
- Property rights are the right to use your property in peace
- You own your life and your property, and no one else has the right to interfere in this, as long as you are peaceful
- Property rights are secured through liberal constitutional rule of law
- Property rights solve disputes and conflicts in an effective manner
- The body and property are not exactly the same, for instance, you cannot sell your own body into permanent slavery