From the February 2008 Idaho Observer:

Respect of property is the foundation of freedom

He who has the power of a thing’s usage and disposal has the highest claim to its ownership as property. If we fail to pay state property taxes, the state will seize our real property, evict us from it and sell to the highest bidder at public auction. If we fail to pay federal income taxes, the federal government will seize real and personal property and sell it all to pay the taxes and whatever fines and interest it arbitrarily attaches to the delinquency. If we are found guilty of breaking any one or more of government’s millions of laws, it can seize our property and sell it to pay whatever amount it arbitrarily determines we owe to "society" in compensation for "damages." Even if we are able to pay back taxes or are acquitted of crimes, property seized by government is commonly never returned. In this sense, modern Americans own nothing because government demonstrates over and over again that it has the highest claim when it exercises the rights of usage and disposal of "our" property and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

If property ownership is the foundation of freedom, then there is no foundation for freedom in America at this time. That is a sobering thought. It means that believing Americans are free is foundationally deficient and, therefore, illogical and illusory. Understanding "property" allows us to accurately determine the true nature of government based upon how it respects the people’s "right" to acquire, possess, use and dispose of it.

Selected quotes on property rights by Thomas Jefferson

The right to procure property and to use it for one’s own enjoyment is essential to the freedom of every person, and our other rights would mean little without these rights of property ownership. It is also for these reasons that the government’s power to tax property is placed in those representatives most frequently and directly responsible to the people, since it is the people themselves who must pay those taxes out of their holdings of property.

"The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management."

~Letter to Samuel Kercheval (1816)

"A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings."

~Letter to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours (1816)

"[We in America entertain] a due sense of our equal right to... the acquisitions of our own industry." ~1st Inaugural (1801)

"The laws of civil society, indeed, for the encouragement of industry, give the property of the parent to his family on his death, and in most civilized countries permit him even to give it, by testament, to whom he pleases." ~Letter to Thomas Earle (1823)

Every Citizen is Entitled to Own Property. "The political institutions of America, its various soils and climates, opened a certain resource to the unfortunate and to the enterprising of every country and insured to them the acquisition and free possession of property." ~Declaration on Taking Up Arms (1775)

"The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed... It is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state." ~Letter to James Madison (1785)

"Whenever there is in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right."

~Letter to James Madison (1785)

"[The] unequal division of property... occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which... is to be observed all over Europe." ~Letter to James Madison (1785)

"I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind."

~Letter to James Madison (1785)

"Our wish... is that... equality of rights [be] maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers."

~2nd Inaugural Address (1805)

"To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association--’the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.’" ~Note in Destutt de Tracy’s "Political Economy" (1816)

"By nature’s law, every man has a right to seize and retake by force his own property taken from him by another by force or fraud. Nor is this natural right among the first which is taken into the hands of regular government after it is instituted. It was long retained by our ancestors. It was a part of their common law, laid down in their books, recognized by all the authorities, and regulated as to circumstances of practice."

~Batture at New Orleans (1812)

"Charged with the care of the general interest of the nation, and among these with the preservation of their lands from intrusion, I exercised, on their behalf, a right given by nature to all men, individual or associated, that of rescuing their own property wrongfully taken." ~Letter to W. C. C. Claiborne (1810)

"[If governments have] a right of demanding ad libitum and of taxing us themselves to the full amount of their demand if we do not comply with it, [this would leave] us without anything we can call property." ~Reply to Lord North (1775)

"The right to sell is one of the rights of property." ~Letter to Handsome Lake (1802)

"The first foundations of the social compact would be broken up were we definitely to refuse to its members the protection of their persons and property while in their lawful pursuits." ~Letter to James Maury (1812)

"Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of."

~Letter to Maria Cosway (1786)

Respect for property rights necessary for freedom (Rep. Ron Paul, 1998)

Often Congress’ laws are not about environment, but power and control. It is the most basic of all our rights. In a society which has the proper focus, many of the problems we face today become non-issues. Over the last half-century, there has been a declared war on these most fundamental of rights: Property rights.

Some try to make this an issue of simply pro-property rights versus pro-environmentalism. In reality, the issue is much, much deeper. In fact, how we look at property rights is a most basic foundation of our liberty.

When one has a proper respect for property rights, environmental concerns go away. In a society that respects the property of others, it is cause for legal action if someone pollutes your land, or the water coming across your property, or the air which floats above it. With a proper respect for private property, people can and should be allowed to do whatever they would like with their land—barring any restrictions they agreed to when they purchased the land—up until the point that their actions physically affect their neighbors.

So while a land owner may choose to build a big factory on his land, he must be very careful to ensure that no harm comes to adjacent property owners, or he will face the unmitigated wrath of those neighbors. In the past, big businesses often colluded with government to allow them to pollute their neighbors’ land, leaving the adjacent owners with devalued property and no recourse.

But the issue is so much more broad than simply concerns over the protection of the environment. Much has been done in the name of "environmentalism" which in reality has little to do with clean air and water, and everything to do with power and control.

For the degree of freedom we enjoy on our own property—whether it is a thousand-acre farm or a single-family dwelling lot in a town or city—is a strong measure of the liberty in a society.

Our respect for private property goes to the root of our other freedoms: Freedom of speech, of religion, to own weapons, to gather peaceably, and so on. Much is made that one should not "yell fire in a crowded theater." And while that is true in a moral sense, it is equally true that the property owner should have the right to disallow people from saying or doing anything in their theater, or even being there in the first place. But today the government dictates not only how we can use the land, but in many cases forces us to allow others to use our property in ways to which we object.

Freedom only exists where there is complete respect for rights of property ownership. When we go to another person’s land, or home, or business, we should expect to be bound by their rules of conduct. And they should be free to protect their property and family as they see fit.

Increasingly, though, the government is usurping our property rights, in one fashion or another. It is fair to say that we are in a sense losing true property ownership. In many cases, the government prevents us from doing with our property what we would like, essentially making the land worthless. Yet government still manages to tax us at rates which rival rent for the pleasure of being forbidden from using the land. Some of the laws are ostensibly "environmental" in nature, others reflect a desire for "fairness," while still others make claims of simply being "good for everyone." While these laws may be good for the big-government bureaucrats, they are bad for almost everyone else. In fact, these laws amount to regulatory takings, which are prohibited by our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

Perhaps the most egregious assault occurs, though, at the death of a property owner. Instead of being able to leave the family estate to his heirs, the owner’s survivors must instead sit down with the government and negotiate how to divide up the property. The family farm is an endangered species, not for a lack of profitability or interest, but because the taxes assessed by government at our death forces the family to sell off land just to pay the levy.

Our freedoms and liberties are only as secure as our property rights. This was the underlying assumption of our Founding Fathers, and a foundation we are in danger of cracking. Without a firm respect for property ownership, all our other rights are only so much talk.

Rep. Ron Paul on property rights (2007)

The federal government has proven itself untrustworthy with environmental policy by facilitating polluters, subsidizing logging in the National Forests, and instituting one-size-fits-all approaches that too often discriminate against those they are intended to help. The key to sound environmental policy is respect for private property rights. The strict enforcement of property rights corrects environmental wrongs while increasing the cost of polluting.

In a free market, no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor’s land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter’s production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way. Currently, preemptive regulations and pay-to-pollute schemes favor those wealthy enough to perform the regulatory tap dance, while those who own the polluted land rarely receive a quick or just resolution to their problems.

Rep. Ron Paul on property rights (2008)

We must stop special interests from violating property rights and literally driving families from their homes, farms and ranches.

Today, we face a new threat of widespread eminent domain actions as a result of powerful interests who want to build a NAFTA superhighway through the United States from Mexico to Canada.

We also face another danger in regulatory takings: Through excess regulation, governments deprive property owners of significant value and use of their properties — all without paying "just compensation."

Property rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society. Without the right to own a printing press, for example, freedom of the press becomes meaningless. The next president must get federal agencies out of these schemes to deny property owners their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.