Property Rights Loss Invites Anarchy

January 27, 2003

By Tom DeWeese

While Americans focus on the prospect of war with Iraq, one to liberate the citizens of that nation from a terrible dictator, other Americans are organizing to protect essential Constitutional rights that are being eroded and destroyed.

There is outrage over the manipulation of election laws to thwart the will of the voters. There is the effort to defeat a bill in Congress that would impose a National Identity Card on everyone. Others are raising their voices in protest against a Sustainable Development agenda being driven by the United Nations and the worldwide environmental movement. It is an agenda designed to attack property rights.

For nearly 227 years America has prospered because this nation has operated under a rule of law that was designed to protect the individual’s right to pursue his own life in the way he chooses. To work, to play, to invest, to own property and to use it in the way that best suits his or her needs. Yet, today, we are witnessing corrupt courts that toss aside election laws, that take over whole school systems and then demand taxes be imposed to implement their rulings, a function of legislatures and local communities.

The Founding Fathers, particularly James Madison, took those ideas of limited government to heart and put them in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It limits government taking of private property, saying no American shall “be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” This is a guarantee to Americans that they are safe and free to pursue their own lives without interference from government. It says it is the government’s job to protect those liberties. Without that guarantee there can be no society. Chaos and tyranny would replace order and prosperity.

Guaranteed by those protections, Americans began to work their land. With their free minds they invented new approaches, and created new jobs, and found new ways to prosper. As a result, our standard of living improved. Science improved health care. Life expectancy increased. And wealth followed. Americans have created an incredible society out of a barren wilderness.

Liberty became our birthright and visions of freedom became our legacy to much of the world’s people still yearning to be free. Today, as we are under attack by terrorists, the nation rallies around our belief in freedom. Flags fly from our homes and car antennas. Bumper stickers declare “God Bless America.” Banners shout “Let Freedom Ring.”

The question must be asked; do we still have those freedoms or is our pride in America now based mostly on propaganda and memories from another era? The answer is that today, an army of bureaucrats care nothing about those rights and the politicians, the ones who seek our votes every few years, don’t care either. They keep passing laws to give the bureaucrats the power to run roughshod over our rights.

Their only true concern is that you are verbally appeased until Election Day while they wink at the radical environmentalists who slip money in their pockets. Step by step, American liberty is disappearing. Americans are being ruled, regulated, restricted, licensed, registered, directed, checked, inspected, measured, numbered, counted, rated, stamped, censured, authorized, admonished, refused, prevented, drilled, indoctrinated, monopolized, extorted, robbed, hoaxed, fined, harassed, disarmed, dishonored, fleeced, exploited, assessed, and taxed to the point of suffocation and desperation.

We lost the wisdom of the need for individuals to have the right to own and control private property. The fact is no other rights can exist without property rights. How can you have free speech if you aren’t allowed to control your own property? Step by step, property rights are being eliminated in America and that means we are eliminating freedom.

Too many people in America have accepted the idea that they have the right to tell other people what to do with their private lives and their private property. And they believe there is nothing wrong with using the power of government to enforce those ideas. They have become the Sustainable Development lynch mob.

Ask yourself these questions. Do you support zoning laws? Do you support land-development plans and restrictions? Do you support restrictions on where businesses can be placed? Do you support how waterways are used? Do you support historic preservation? Do you support restrictions on building designs to create uniformity? Do you support community growth management? Are you an active member of a homeowners association?

In every case, you are licensing the government to infringe on someone else’s property rights. And what happens if a bigger mob doesn’t like what you are doing with your land? Once the precedent has been established the monster is out of the bag. There is no turning back.

If and when Sustainable Development is implemented and imposed, every one of these things are to be controlled by decisions made for you by government bureaucrats, members of private, non-government organizations in partnership with private businesses and elected representatives, working together in specially organized councils with names like sustainability councils, stakeholder councils.

John Adams said, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

We keep electing politicians who offer the best argument on how to use government power. We select our leaders today based on which ones have the best plan for collecting taxes; the best plan for restricting land use; the best plan for providing government-restricted medical care and drug prescription and soon, if some get their way, the best plan to even control what we eat.

We seem to have one property right left. The right to keep paying taxes and the mortgage payments as we live by the permission of the government. We have been losing our freedoms because we have lost the knowledge of why this nation was founded.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.