Property and property rights are different. Vehicles, real estate, farmland, investments, bank accounts, houses, businesses, and stock certificates are property.
Property rights refers to the security we hold to our property and to what we can legally do with what we own. If you buy a farm and want to build an equipment shed, but the government passes a law or regulation saying you can’t do that, your property rights have been stepped on. The land title will still be in your name. The property itself won’t be changed. Yet the property rights that determine what you can and cannot do with your property will be affected.
Similarly, if you own farmland and the government energy regulator approves an energy company’s application to drill a well or build a pipeline on your property, and then—through legislation or regulation—denies you the right to a hearing if you want to contest where they locate a well or build an access road, your property rights have been violated. You’ll own the land. The title is still in your name. Yet your ability to influence the way your property will be used has been taken from you. That means your property rights have been trampled.
Story of Susette Kelo
What happened to Susette Kelo set off a firestorm in the United States in terms of property rights.
This short video explains how events in Kelo's life led to the majority of U.S. states passing new legislation. If you would like to see a keen expression of bureaucratic arrogance, part way through the video, listen to the lawyer for the City of New London explain why government has the right to push people off their property in the name of the public good.
The man then compares governments pushing people around on private property to a government’s responsibility to deal with “blight,” which is a fungal plant disease.
In this short video, Andrew Coyne and Ian Brodie speak about the possible future of Property Rights in Canada. The video is from the 2012 Property Rights Conference in Calgary.
Possible Future of Property Rights
Is It Really True That Political Self-Interest Is More Noble Than Economic Self-Interest?
In this short clip, economist Milton Friedman (who won the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of economic science) responds to an inquiry about the contrast between political self-interest (which many people claim is singularly noble) and economic self-interest.
When we hear the word “Canadian,” no one thinks only about Ontario and Saskatchewan. No one. That’s because Canada includes ten provinces and three territories. Thinking of just two provinces would be silly.
Similarly, no one should think only about farmland when discussing “property rights.” Property rights is way bigger than owning farmland. Property rights are at the heart of humanity’s most profound ideas, including human rights, justice, morality, individual responsibility, civil society, rule of law, and even the creation of new and never-before-seen wealth.
The starting point is that we own our lives. Frederick Douglass, one of the great orators of the 19th century, talked about this every time he stood before a crowd. Douglass was an escaped slave who became an eloquent and high-profile voice of reason across the northern U.S.
At the height of the anti-slavery movement, and during the U.S. Civil War, Douglass was repeatedly asked to speak at church meetings and anti-slavery rallies. Many times he would begin his presentation by taking a prolonged period to stand quietly before the crowd. Then he would explain himself.
“I stand before you this night as a thief and a robber,” Douglass would say. “See these arms, these legs, these hands, this head—I stole them from my master and ran off with them.”
The point Douglass would consistently drive home to the crowds is that the most basic human right any of us possess is the property right we hold in ourselves. No one has the right to own or manage the life of another person. This is an inescapable and undeniable moral truth. Understanding, embracing, and defending it is the point at which human rights and property rights meet and begin.
© All material at this website is copyright 2016 by Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association and/or Grassroots Alberta Citizens Initiative.
Terry Anderson on Free Market Environmentalism
Terry Anderson is the William A. Dunn Distinguished Senior Fellow and former President and Executive Director of PERC as well as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He believes that market approaches can be both economically sound and environmentally sensitive. His research helped launch the idea of free market environmentalism and has prompted public debate over the proper role of government in managing natural resources.
Anderson is the author or editor of thirty-seven books. Among these, Free Market Environmentalism, co-authored with Donald Leal, received the 1992 Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award. A revised edition was published in 2001.