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In Defense of Property
Because defending looting requires a substantial reduction in our empathy and our rationality
It’s become evident that the “big three” rights that we’ve held as a mainstay of American Civil Rights, Liberties and jurisprudence for over 244 years are under legitimate assault. It’s easy to miss the real threats in the middle of a pandemic.
Let’s start with “life”… thousands of citizens were left to die in funeral homes because their states’ governors couldn’t be bothered to think straight about what the risks of reintroducing Covid patients back into nursing home populations would result in. The number of lives lost to abortions this year hasn’t drastically dropped, and now we have people doubling down on the panic of this unassailable right being threatened by Covid lockdowns.
Then we have liberty. Did I mention “lockdowns”… not sure if there is any end in sight on the absolute control that Governors seems to have over the simple movement of their citizens from place to place.
Most importantly the one I think deserves the most attention right now is the right of property. In addition to the aforementioned lockdown where millions of businesses have been deemed “unessential” and thus kindling on the fire of saving “ONE MORE LIFE” from Covid; we now have going on 90 days of riots, lotting, mayhem, arson, attacks and other violence (right alongside those “MOSTLY PEACEFUL” protests) followed by the promotion of a book entitled, “In Defense of Looting” which includes a rationale of looting involving labeling both the Korean businesses during the LA Riots in the early 90s and the Jewish businesses during the Watts Riots in the 60s as the “faces of Capital,” and thus worthy of having their businesses burned to the ground. Yes. The author is asking us to look business owners in the eye and tell them they are “the faces of capital” even if they have nothing to do with the racial strife at the heart of the supposed conflict.
There are…. limits to the American reverence for property, to be sure. We should be cautious when we say things like, “Anyone I don’t know steps a toe on my property, I’ll shoot ‘em dead!”…. lest that someone be someone we do know one day and our vigor for protecting property become indecent bloodlust, and an accidental shooting. We should be wary of over-romanticizing after the “finer things in life” as an economic downturn can take those things away, and if they were a centerpiece of our personal value, the blow to our psyche could be profound. The “prosperity gospel” is not a gospel that anyone should believe has anything to do with THE Gospel. Our treasures are stored in heaven, to be sure, and our pursuit of virtue here should supersede our desires for nicer cars and houses, etc.
All of that being said, it is indeed necessary for our Republic to maintain a respect for property, and for our legal system to maintain its protection of it. Any resolution of our current problems, be they Covid-19, or urban unrest, or police brutality, or the overreaching Federal Government…. all of them should be done with an eye towards protecting our rights to property, be it our business or our homes.
Kevin Williamson has a piece on this concept, and more specifically the tendency of the friendly media to call all protests “mostly peaceful,” and he has this — rather harsh — condemnation of those who would try to dismiss and shrug off a concern about rights of property:
“Property is necessary for the exercise of civil rights. Civil rights without property rights is a rhetoric, not a reality. The freedom of the press enjoyed by the New York Times is not worth $0.02 without the hundreds of millions of dollars in printing facilities and digital infrastructure that the newspaper relies on to actually disseminate the news. Burning that down would not be “just property” damage. If you can see that but cannot also see how looting a business involves more than “just property,” then you should go someplace quiet and think about it for a while, and pray fervently to whatever deity you believe in to reach down from the transcendent celestial realm and make you a little less stupid.”
Mr. Williamson’s seriousness on this topic is not unwarranted and not without a history. Our country’s bedrock of common law and the marriage of Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment principles absolutely requires a full Lockean understanding of property rights, and it will not withstand the dilution of that understanding if it wishes to make it through the next decade intact. Locke was very clear on the importance of property (an understanding that can be deemed incomplete, but not inadequate or irrational), and I think it rings truer in the midst of rationalizing looting, then at any other time:
“Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being by him removed from the common state nature placed it, it hath by his labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.”
There is no rationale for burning down the businesses or homes of innocent bystanders. No amount of excuses about angst and feelings about systemic … anything … will make that stick. To do so is to turn our legal system on its head and make it about what too many of the agitators want it to be about: Not fairness. Not justice. But power.