“The prime element in the value of any property is the knowledge that its peaceful enjoyment will be publicly defended.”
Property rights are an ancient idea but developed in a deeper sense out of Biblical principles and the Western legal tradition. Of course, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson are some of the more well-known figures that advanced the right for persons to be secure in their property. “Government has no other end than the preservation of property,” Locke once declared in his “Second Treatise on Civil Government.”
At any rate, robust property rights are one of the main reasons this nation has been an economic champion and model of prosperity throughout world history.
That’s one of the main reasons that it is deeply troubling to watch the destruction and decimation of private property on the news, or for some, in person. While we should have immense sympathy and solidarity with the well-meaning protestors, we can’t as a state or nation tolerate looting, mob violence, or the destruction of private property. While the government can’t do a lot of things, what it can do is help to promote the common good by securing the rights of the people. If you’ve read the American Founding documents, you know that’s why our system of government was implemented in the first place. If the government can’t secure those rights, it will lead to a climate of anarchy and then down the path towards despotism.
It’s time too for small businesses to have a larger voice and seat at the table in this nation. They are so often the type of people in this country who play by the rules, many of the good-natured and hard-working people that you and I live around in our communities. How does it feel for them to have played by the rules for months during this entire Covid-19 pandemic and just as North Carolina begins to open up their stores or centers of commerce are looted and ransacked? Many of them have poured the majority of their life and savings into businesses that not only bring joy but provide for their family and the families of others.
I heard about one store owner in North Carolina recently saying the police had let him down after his property was destroyed. We basically had the Raleigh chief of police say that officers won’t necessarily protect private property:
When the greater risk is of injury to the officer, and I had five injured last night – a building? A window? A door? The property that was in it can easily be replaced. But for a person who has had officers shot. And more recently than not, I will not put an officer in harm’s way to protect the property inside of a building. Because insurance is most likely going to cover that as well but that officer’s safety is of the utmost importance.
I sincerely appreciate the chief’s sentiment here and her desire to protect her officers, but I think we need to be careful in giving more ammunition to those who want to loot and destroy. And let’s be clear, those that want to loot and destroy are not concerned about justice for George Floyd or others abused in the custody of law enforcement.
It is a horrible image to watch the news and see small business owners boarding up their property because they have practically been told, “folks, you’re on your own!” If local law enforcement can’t protect private property they need to ask the governor for immediate help.
Sigh! The destruction and theft of private property is an injustice that the government is empowered to remedy and should do so quickly. And while I obviously agree that we have a plethora of problems from heavy-handed police tactics, protecting the right to property in no way contradicts any other legitimate grievance going on in our culture and political life today. If the right to property erodes, we will lose the fruits of our labor and the security in our very homes — all those rights we hold dear. We need leaders who understand this and are willing to protect and articulate a sacred first principle long understood in free societies.