One of the things that stinks about a society in which government creeps into every corner of life is that every corner of life becomes politicized. A basic understanding of property rights could save so much pain and aggravation.
This is yours. This is mine. You have no claim on my stuff, and I have no claim on yours. Respect me and I’ll respect you. Done.
Ludwig von Mises witnessed the collapse of the Habsburg civilization, the rise of Nazism in Austria and Germany, and two horrific European wars– a series of events far beyond mere incivility. His answer to actual barbarity was real liberalism, distilled in its purest form to one word: property. “If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization,” Mises tells us in the aptly-titled Omnipotent Government.
But property is not part of the liberal program today; on the contrary, private ownership is under serious attack not only among rising “democratic socialists” like Alexandria Cortez and Bernie Sanders but also by protectionist and mercantilist forces in the Trump administration.
Trump’s mercantilist tendencies are a serious problem. Tariffs are taxes, and I thought we all agreed that we are all Taxed Enough Already. Didn’t we agree that that was the case? I know a whole big bunch of us did.
America slowly but surely lost her sense of robust private ownership, the soul of a free society. It happened through the tax and regulatory state, by overturning the Lochner case and jettisoning economic substantive due process, through absurd readings of the Commerce Clause, through the creation of wildly extra-constitutional administrative agencies, and through the creation of an inferior form of property called “public accommodations.”
By giving up property we gave up liberalism and civil society. By insisting on political control over vast areas of human affairs we gave up civility for force.