Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inalienable Right to Property

In the post below about happiness I mention how glad I am that the writers of the Declaration of Independence decided not to include property as an inalienable right. The Declaration of Rights of the First Continental Congress in 1774 said that man is entitled to "life, liberty and property."

What is an inalienable right? "Inalienable" is defined as "not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated; inviolable, absolute, unassailable, inherent." The Declaration of Indepedence authors meant that the inalienable rights listed were bestowed upon us by God and could not be taken from us. I can understand how my life is not transferable to another and is inherent, or how my liberty is not capable of being repudiated, is unassailable, but how could property be considered in this way? Property is transferable, able to be repudiated, not an inherent part of a person, etc.

In the current New Yorker there is a letter by a professor of history at California State University, East Bay, Dee Andrews, stating that the issue of property rights is what defines the Republican Party.
The main political issue of our time isn’t whether markets are always right but whether they are always good. Adam Smith, in "The Wealth of Nations," advocated free trade based on his theory that the market’s invisible hand would provide for the greater wealth of nations across the social spectrum. This moral vision was long ago abandoned by free marketers in favor of another theory from the founding era: the inviolability of property rights...This is the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats tend to believe that, in the light of our long experience with [capitalism's cycles of] boom and bust, fiscal policy should provide social and economic equity for the American people. Republicans seem to believe that fiscal policy should protect acquisition of wealth, however skewed the distribution of wealth may become and however small the number of citizens protected. The difference is abundantly apparent in California today, where the Democratic legacy of equitable distribution of wealth, through public education especially, but also in many other areas, was long ago sacrificed on the altar of property rights in Proposition 13.
This worship of property rights explains so many positions of the right-wing, in particular taxation and deregulation. Don't make me share what is mine. This is why they seem to consider "socialism" to be the greatest evil that could befall this nation.

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