Our Constitution, claims author Cleon Skousen, is basically about providing abuse from authority. So, in what area are those in authority most likely to usurp power and abuse their citizens? Let’s explore this as we continue in our book study of “The Five Thousand Year Leap.” (Skousen, W. Cleon. The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Ideas That Changed the World. National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1981).
Skousen’s 14th Principle of liberty is that “Life and liberty are secure only so long as the right to property is secure.” Does taking property rights away surprise you as the first source of abuse of power? It may be the most stealth source, as long as it’s happening to someone else and not to you. We tend to ignore property grabs. As Common Sense citizens, we inherently know that what we own is ours. We have an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, which most definitely includes the right to own property as our Founders intended. Skousen quotes the Bible to substantiate this…. “even the heavens are the Lord’s but the earth He has given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16)
We have the responsibility to steward the earth. If we didn’t own private property (and in some countries, you can’t), the development or betterment of a property would be fruitless. A neighbor could come into your improved property and be a squatter if your property isn’t legally protected.
Cleon Skousen points out the pitfalls of not having legally protected, God-given private property rights:
- An individual’s incentive to improve would be destroyed.
- Industrious individuals would not reap the benefits of their labor.
- The unscrupulous individual would be tempted to take what you worked hard to obtain.
- Any attempt on your part to accumulate wealth or goods would be for naught because theft of your property is a likely possibility.
We learn another vital aspect of this 14th Principle. Keep in mind that your property isn’t considered the issue here. Property is not human. It’s about YOUR RIGHT to ownership of what you have earned. It is essential to your liberty since your labor is an extension of your life. If the government does not let you own your property (the fruit of your labor), then you also do not have liberty. Such is an affront to your life and your pursuit of happiness.
When it comes to property, the issue of wealth distribution comes up. Cleon Skousen contends that there is a way to take care of the poor without violating property rights. Americans are a caring people. Help for the impoverished was handled through the private sector, in communities, or at the state level before the federal welfare system began. Spending federal tax dollars to fix poverty was not the way of America. We the People took care of us, and when we did, people worked, fell on hard times, were given a hand up, and the donor and receiver were known to each other. There was a personal relationship involved. Today, people perceive “the government” will take care of the problem. They seem to forget that when the government gets involved in private welfare problems, we end up in debt. Our moral character is weakened. We lose a personal connection.
Have you considered your property rights in the manner that Cleon Skousen prescribes? Have you ever considered life and liberty to be only secure when your right to own your property is also secure? What are your thoughts after reading about Skousen’s 14th Principle?