Creating a False Distinction Between Human Rights & Property Rights

Walter Williams latest editorial entitled Human rights vs. property rights offers an insightful look into the twisted views of some Leftists:

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. New London, statements have been made about property rights that are demonstrative of the paucity of understanding among some within the legal profession. Carolyn Lochhead’s July 1st San Francisco Chronicle article, “Foes Unite in Defense of Property,” reports on the coalition building in Congress to deny federal funds to cities that use laws of eminent domain to take private property for the benefit of another private party.
But it’s the article’s report on a statement made by a representative of People for the American Way…that I’d like to address. According to Ms. Lochhead’s article, “Elliot Mincberg, the group’s legal director, said the case [Kelo v. New London] had been brought by the Institute for Justice as part of an effort by conservatives to elevate property rights to the same level of civil rights such as freedom of speech and religion, in effect taking the nation back to the pre-New Deal days when the courts ruled child labor laws unconstitutional.” To posit a distinction between civil or human rights on the one hand and property rights on the other reflects little understanding…
My computer is my property. Does it have any rights — like the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Are there any constitutional guarantees held by my computer?…to think of property as possessing rights is unadulterated nonsense.
…Property rights are human rights to use economic goods and services. Private property rights contain your right to use, transfer, trade and exclude others from use of property deemed yours. The supposition that there’s a conflict or difference between human rights to use property and civil rights is bogus and misguided…
That it’s bogus to make a distinction between human, civil and property rights can be seen in another way. In a free society, each person is his own private property; I own myself and you own yourself. That’s why it’s immoral to rape or murder. It violates a person’s property rights. The fact of self-ownership also helps explain why theft is immoral. In order for self-ownership to be meaningful, a person must have ownership rights to what he produces or earns…if someone steals my computer, he’s violated my ownership rights to my computer, which I earned through my labor, and therefore my human or civil rights to keep what I produce.
Creating false distinctions between human rights and property rights plays into the hands of Democrat and Republican party socialists who seek to control our lives. If we buy into the notion that somehow property rights are less important, or are in conflict with, human or civil rights, we give the socialists a freer hand to attack our property.
As President John Adams (1797-1801) put it, “Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.” Adding, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

An indepth look at the Kelo decision can be found in a posting entitled The Kelo Decision: When Private Property Rights are Eroded, Our Freedom is Diminished.

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Thomas J. Jackson
Thomas J. Jackson
16 years ago

Nice analysis. People forget that property rights are the foundation of human rights. One only need live in Africa or South America to realize the vagueness of property rights has retarded progress and living conditions.

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