28 Principles That Helped Build America – Chapter 14 – Principle #14

Life and Liberty Are Secure Only so Long As the Right to Property Is Secure


Leviticus 25:13 “In this year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.


Psalm 115:16 “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind.”


The one unalienable right that our Founding Fathers told us to be aware of was the right to property, because all other rights are related to it. Just a superficial reading of Scripture shows the importance that God has placed on private property ownership. Under English common law the earth was considered a gift from God, as we see from Psalm 115:16. John Locke pointed out that this was a common gift and it was the responsibility of mankind to improve it.


This goes along with the Cultural Mandate that the Creator gave us to “subdue the earth and have dominion over it.” (Genesis 1:28) In one sense, dominion brings in the idea of control which also brings in what the Founding Fathers called “exclusiveness” meaning that private property became a necessity in order to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.


If we did not have what is known as “private rights” to develop and improve property then it would be perfectly lawful for a lazy, covetous person to move in as soon as improvements were made and take possession of the land. Even then the lazy, covetous neighbor would not be secure because someone stronger than him could come in and take over.


In the book, The 5000 Year Leap, we read that without property rights four things would occur that would completely frustrate the Creator’s command to multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and bring it under dominion. What are they?


  1. “If another person could come in and take possession of the property once it is improved it would completely destroy the incentive of an industrious person to develop and improve any more property.”
  2. “The industrious individual would also be deprived of the fruits of his labor.”
  3. “Marauding bands would even be tempted to go about the country confiscating by force and violence the good things which others had frugally and painstakingly provided.”
  4. “Mankind would be impelled to remain on the bare subsistence level of hand to mouth survival because the accumulation of anything would invite attack.”

In other words, and like Locke and our Founding Fathers brought out, property is an extension of a person’s life and energy as well as ingenuity. The reason that they bring this out is that every man has a ‘property’ in his own person. So the labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his.


A question does come that since everything originally was common with the rest of humanity how then does one require ownership? John Locke answers the question: “It is the taking any part of what is common, and removing it out of the state that Nature leaves it in, which begins the property, without which the common (gift from God) is of no use.” John Locke goes on to say: “Thus this law of reason makes the deer the property of the Indian who has killed it; it is allowed to be his goods who had bestowed his labor upon it, though before, it was the common right of everyone.” In other words, property becomes the owner of those who put the labor into it. For example, in the early days of our Union property was allotted to those who would take possession and put labor into it. It was Justice George Sutherland of the U.S. Supreme Court that mentioned that property, per se, has no rights; “but the individual – the man – has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary interference: the right to his Life, the right to his liberty, the right to his property.” It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Property is the fruit of labor.”


On the basis of all of this, one of the primary purposes of government is to protect property. The early American colonists realized the importance of this and it is one of the things that led to the Revolutionary War, because it was the royal crown trying to take away property through various kinds of taxation without their consent. Our Founding Fathers realized the foundational stone for human liberty and human happiness is private property.


This is why government should not take from the ‘haves’ and give to the ‘have-nots,’ as the redistribution of the wealth is unconstitutional. However, we see today how the government has slowly but surely began to redistribute, out of concern (supposedly), for the poor and needy. The question does arise who will take care of the poor? The answer according to our Founding Fathers was “anybody but the federal government.” Up until the present time, help was given almost exclusively by the private sector or on the community or state level.


It would seem to me that if we lose our right to own private property we also will soon lose all our other rights.

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