Posts tagged property rights
England’s Levellers: The World’s First Libertarian Movement
The first-ever libertarians were the Levellers, an English political movement active in the seventeenth century. The Levellers contributed to the elaboration of the methodological and political paradigm of individualism, and they are at the origin of the radical strand of classical liberalism. While the Levellers are often characterized as a quasi-socialist movement, closer examination shows that the Levellers had much more in common with advocates for free markets than with socialists.
This interpretation of the Levellers is supported, among others, by Murray N. Rothbard who considers them as “the world’s first self-consciously libertarian movement.” Rothbard notes that
[i]n a series of notable debates within the Republican Army — notably between the Cromwellians and the Levellers — the Levellers led by John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn, worked out a remarkably consistent libertarian doctrine, upholding the rights of self-ownership, private property, religious freedom for the individual, and minimal government interference in society. The rights of each individual to his person and property, furthermore, were natural, that is, they were derived from the nature of man.
One of the most important of the Levellers’s contributions to the theoretical foundation of the libertarian doctrine was, according to Rothbard, that they, “transformed the rather vague and holistic notions of natural law into the clear cut, firmly individualistic concepts of natural rights of every individual human being,” including fundamental tenets of libertarianism. This included the right to self-ownership, methodological individualism, individual natural rights theory, sound property rights, and economic freedom.
Lilburne defended natural law as “Nature and reason” and “the grounds of all just laws” and that “therefore against this Law, prescriptions, statutes, nor customs may not prevail. And if any be brought in against it, they be no prescriptions, statutes nor customs, but things void, and against justice …”
In 1646 while Lilburne was imprisoned for high treason, Overton wrote A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens, and other Free-Born People of England, to their own House of Commons, urging that Lilburne be freed. The Remonstrance became a great Leveller manifesto.
“We are well assured, yet cannot forget, that the cause of our choosing you to be Parliament-men, was to deliver us from all kind of bondage, and to preserve the Commonwealth in peace and happiness,” Overton wrote. “But you are to remember, this was only of us but a power of trust, which is ever revokable. … We are your principals, and you our agents.”
Overton advocated religious tolerance, even for the much-reviled English Catholics, and also denounced the practice of impressing men into the army and navy as a form of enslavement.
Moreover, the Levellers advocated property rights and the freedom to contract and trade, as against monopolies and privileges guaranteed by the state. They celebrated the benefits of economic freedom to society and opposed the government taxes, customs, excises, and regulations that inhibited competition.
In May 1652, Walwyn presented to the Committee for Trade and Foreign Affairs a defense of free trade against the Levant Company, urging the abolition of monopolies and trade restrictions by the government. In Walwyns Conceptions; For a Free Trade, the author vindicates free trade as a common right conductive to common good. More than a century before Adam Smith, Walwyn directly linked freedom of trading to the public good. Exalting the benefits of competition, he holds that the results of free trade and competition are more and better goods, lower prices, more ships, plenty of men becoming useful members of the community, and more wealth for active and creative people.
Walwyn explored the question of whether leaving foreign trade “equally free to all Englishmen would be most profitable for the Common wealth,” and he concluded “that for foreign trade to be universally free to all English men alike, would be the most advantageous to the Common wealth.”
Walwyn criticized Parliament for carrying on the oppressions of the monarchy by maintaining all the monopolies and the privileges granted by the Crown in the field of trade. The right to trade freely, Walwyn maintained, is an ancient, natural, claimed right of all Englishmen and it is much more profitable than any government restrictions and privileges.
Continuing his analysis of competition, Walwyn notes that, “the numerousness of merchants will occasion a strife and emulation among them, who shall produce the best ordered goods.” And he underlines the advantages for the laborers, pointing out that the competition will produce, “greater price for work; whereas merchants in Companyes have noe need of such diligence … and workmen must worke at what rate they please.”
Walwyn, as well as Overton and Lilburne, attributed lamentably low wages to monopolies, hampered trade, and excise taxes.
The Levellers were concerned with economic rights and these economic rights were a direct consequence of the right to self-ownership and included individual property rights, freedom to produce, sell, buy, and trade, and to do all this without license, monopolies, regulations, and arbitrary taxation. That is to say, they advocated a free market economy. The right to trade freely was considered a natural right by Lilburne, or a “native liberty” as in Overton’s Remonstrance.
Arguing from the theoretical supremacy of natural rights, Lilburne rejects any form of regulation of trade.
Elizabeth I abolished some monopolies, but by the time the Levellers were writing, the old monopolies had been restored to support the economic and fiscal desires of the Crown. Lilburne considers such trade restrictions illegal from an ethical standpoint. Moreover they created state privileges for bankers, aristocrats, chartered companies, and corporations.
Charles I created new monopolies and privileged concessions under the name of licenses, and the Long Parliament, and subsequently Cromwell, confirmed the most relevant monopolies such as the right to export woolen cloth, the privileges of the Merchant Adventurers, and the privileges of chartered companies such as the Levant Company.
In turn, Lilburne protested against the monopolies of coal, soap, and woolen clothes. The economic concessions by public authorities paved the way to the creation of privileged positions of supremacy in public institutions and to the violation of the individual birth rights to equal opportunity to compete freely. Lilburne realized that the opposite of competition is privilege.
By the eighteenth century, what is now known as classical liberalism would draw heavily upon the work of the Levellers and their support for individual natural rights theory, property rights, economic freedom, and free trade, and the Levellers’ libertarian opposition to government privilege, government monopoly, and the suppression of free trade remains as instructive today and as it was in the seventeenth century.
About the Author
Roberta Modugno is professor history of political thought at the University of Roma TRE (Rome – Italy). A scholar of American libertarianism, she is the author of several works on Murray N. Rothbard and edited the collection of Rothbard’s papers, Rothbard versus the Philosophers: Unpublished Writings on Hayek, Mises, Strauss, and Polanyi.
Image credit: https://mises.org
Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich (Video)
People often think that property rights benefit those with the most property the most. This isn’t true however. It is actually the poor who in terms of quality of life, benefit most.
In order to have property rights there must be the rule of law. Not the rule of might. In a place where property rights are not respected only the powerful are secure in their possessions (and even then.) If people are not secure in their property, for fear that a “king” or a crony capitalist with connections to the “king” might take their property – the economy suffers. People can’t make contracts with one another. They can’t leverage property. They can’t build wealth, even modest wealth, because any wealth created can always be taken.
Poor people by definition do not have much. But if they can be sure that what little they have will remain theirs and that even the most powerful in society are checked by the rule of law, poor people at least have the chance to build wealth and to escape poverty.
But where the state or private allies of the state can seize property with no regard to ownership (as is the case in many countries) the poor will remain poor.
Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org
About Nick Sorrentino
Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.
Law enforcement agencies receive a lump of coal for abusive practices
NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today announced that Tennesseans have overwhelmingly chosen the 23rd Judicial District, and Cheatham, Dickson, and Humphreys Counties as the recipients of the 2013 Lump of Coal Award.
The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, acted as a Grinch to Tennesseans by bah-humbugging the principles of liberty and limited government.
The judicial district and three counties have become infamous for their use of a controversial tactic known as “policing for profit.” Abusing the state’s civil forfeiture laws, the agencies have begun seizing cash, vehicles, and other personal items in traffic stops, forcing the property owner to prove that the cash or property was not related to criminal activity. Innocent victims often spend months attempting to recoup seized property, sometimes to no avail.
An in-depth documentary by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 revealed troubling facts about the practice, such as substantially more traffic stops on westbound Interstate lanes—where cash proceeds from drug sales frequently flow—while drugs traveling in the eastbound lanes were reportedly allowed to pass unfettered. Officers were also caught on camera admitting that they had little evidence that property was associated with a crime before seizing it anyway.
After the Beacon Center narrowed the list of offenders down to four finalists, the recipient of the Lump of Coal Award was chosen directly by Tennesseans in an online poll. The four law enforcement agencies received the most votes for the not-so-coveted prize, beating out Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and Hemlock Semiconductor with 40 percent of the vote.
“Tennesseans have sent a clear message that ‘policing for profit’ will not be tolerated,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “This practice turns the Constitution on its head, and it’s time for lawmakers to heed the outcry of law-abiding citizens who want their property rights protected from this abuse, while still preserving the authority of law enforcement to target criminals.”
State legislators have indicated that they will study this issue and offer possible reforms to the state’s civil forfeiture laws when they reconvene next month. Earlier this year, the Beacon Center published a policy brief on the practice, which can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/2013/03/the-perils-of-policing-for-profit/.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.
Image credit: http://www.beacontn.org
By Tom DeWeese
Putting bicycles ahead of people
This is a story of raw power, collusion and government corruption. A story that is taking place in countless towns all over America. A story of “reinvented” government, where self-proclaimed private “stakeholders” and pressure groups set the rules, local elected officials rubber stamp them, and non-elected regional governments enforce them, sometimes with an iron fist – all with no input from citizens, and apparently no rights for private citizens and property owners to stop them or even have a say.
It’s the story of the destruction of private property rights in America. Of injustice and tyranny. Of unaccountable government run amok. We need to take action! (See below, in blue, for what you can do.)
Jennie Granato is a tax-paying citizen of Montgomery County, Ohio. She and her family own a 165-year-old historic house and farm just outside of Dayton. They’ve lived there forty years. On July 31, Jennie’s front yard was demolished – thanks to local, county and planning commission bureaucrats!
The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) has begun seizing people’s private property for its latest “essential” project – a $5-million bike path extension! It has seized almost all of Jennie’s front lawn. The bike path will come within just a few feet of her front door!
Jennie and her family tried for over a year to negotiate and reason with this unelected planning commission. Unfortunately, their neighbors were advised by lawyers not to say anything publicly about the pending land grab, so the media viewed it as a non-story. The county and its appraisers kept stalling, saying they wanted a meeting with Jennie, even as they ignored her pleas and offered a pittance for taking her front yard, and likely driving the value of her home down by tens of thousands of dollars.
The meeting never came – and officials didn’t even allow Jennie’s uncle to speak at a hearing. But the bulldozers certainly came! Last week, with no warning, they just started demolishing trees. Jennie and her family still own the property – BUT the county has barged in, torn out their trees and destroyed their front yard! They will never be able to walk out their front door again, without worrying that they will be run over by bicyclists roaring by at 10 or 20 miles per hour, just inches from their bottom step.
The government trucks and bulldozers also precipitated an even worse tragedy. Jennie’s 85 year old mother became so upset over seeing the government’s heavy machinery destroying her yard and favorite trees that she suffered a heart attack and died.
Of course the government refuses to accept any responsibility for this tragedy. It was just promoting the “public welfare” of the private “stakeholders” and pressure groups it works with.
That too has become far too common. The government and these groups want more and more control over our lives, more power to tell us what we can and cannot do with our property and lives. But they accept no transparency and no accountability, responsibility or liability when their actions hurt … or even kill … someone – or when they destroy the property values, peace and integrity of a home.
The MVRPC is an unelected regional government force driven by federal Sustainable Development grant money. It never faces voters over its actions or positions of seemingly unbridled power. It simply deals with other government agencies – local, state and federal – and with private groups like the American Planning Association, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, and a hoard of other organizations that represent faux “conservation and environmental” interests whose real motivation is money, and the power to control our lives.
The Next Florida Governor Adrian Wyllie?
Published by NextNewsNetwork
With the presidential elections now behind us, and all the excitement and hoop-la that comes with it, many Floridians are slowly turning their political minds toward the next big election that will have a direct impact on all of them — the 2014 gubernatorial elections. As of our count today there are 18 challengers to the incumbent Governor Rick Scott; 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, 6 Independents, 2 Libertarians, 1 American Third Position, and 1 undeclared write-in.
With more and more voters disenchanted with the status quo and the continual ruination to our economy and what some see as the continual degradation of rights and expansion of the federal government — people are looking for a change. One such Libertarian candidate looking to bring exactly that for Florida — change, change to established values of freedom and liberty our great nation was founded upon. He was chairman of the Florida Libertarian party until earlier this year when he stepped down to run for Governor. He has been a host of a syndicated AM radio program that focuses on libertarian issues and is an investigative journalist and constitutional activist and our guest today — Adrian Wyllie.
Next News Network’s WHDT World News Program airs daily at 6pm and 11pm Eastern on Comcast, DirecTV and Over-the-Air and Online at http://usmediavault.com/WHDT.html
USDA Protection Racket Demands 47% of Raisin Crops – Destroys Small Farmers
Barb’s Note: This is a criminal extortion racket. What is the difference between a mobster coming to your property and demanding a portion of your profits for “protection” and the government coming to your property and demanding a portion of your crops for “protection?” NOTHING!!!
By Ben O’Neill
The Ethics of State Secrecy
[This is the second of a two-part analysis of ethical and legal questions pertaining to whistleblowers who expose government wrongdoing. The first part, “The Ethics of Whistleblowing” is available here. This second part goes beyond contractual considerations to look at government ownership of information and government oversight mechanisms.]
Government secrets and the “ownership” of secret government documents
The foregoing principles discussed in Part I of our analysis vitiate any allegation of criminal conduct by Edward Snowden resting on his alleged contractual duties to the NSA. His disclosures of NSA documents were certainly “unauthorized disclosures” as has been charged, but there is no reason that any government authorization should be required. Indeed, it is quite absurd to suggest that government permission should be required to disclose evidence of government criminality. But what of the remaining property-based claim that Snowden’s actions involve the “theft” of government property?
This question can be dealt with in a similar manner, by consideration of the ordinary rules pertaining to the use of property in criminal dealings. When a private firm commits a crime using its own property as an instrument of wrongdoing it loses the right to claim ownership as a safeguard against investigation. If an investigator confiscates digging equipment and barrels of toxic waste from a private firm accused of dumping these on the property of others it is no bar to this action if the firm presents a receipt showing that the equipment belongs to them. (Indeed, this would be taken as further evidence linking them to the alleged crime.) The same applies to documentary evidence of a crime — it may legitimately be taken by an investigator as a means of proving criminal wrongdoing, notwithstanding the normal ownership claim that would apply to the item.
Government claims to ownership have no special status in this regard, and do not override these ordinary principles of property rights. In fact, the situation for government claims of ownership is even weaker than for a private enterprise, since the latter will generally have acquired the tools of its criminal dealings with its own money. If a private firm unlawfully dumps toxic waste on the property of others, it is likely that it has at least legitimately purchased its own barrels and digging equipment without having also stolen these. On the contrary, government agencies are built on a system of coercion, where the resources for their operations are extracted through forcible payment from the public, i.e., through taxation. Unlike in a private firm, this gives rise to a situation in which the “shareholders” of government are forced to contribute the instruments of further criminal activity, whether they wish to participate or not. Government claims to ownership of the property in its possession are extremely dubious, and this is made more so when the claim to ownership is made in order to shield knowledge of its own operations from those very shareholders. When the claim to ownership is made to prevent the disclosure of documents detailing further criminal actions by the government, the appeal to property rights is thrice-damned!
A Political Problem-Not an Economic Problem-Catherine Austin Fitts
By Greg Hunter, USAWatchdog:
Investment banker Catherine Austin Fitts sums up the historic global financial problems by saying, “We have a group of people who have the power to act with impunity.
They are above the law. They are centralizing and consolidating economic and political power. We have a political problem. We don’t have an economic problem.” Fitts’ analysis shows, “We’ve been on a debt model, and now we’ve got to get the planet on an equity model. . . .You are going to do everything you can do to get people into equities. Slamming precious metals down helps do that.” But Fitts says that won’t stop the gold bull because China and the rest of the world are buying the yellow metal. Fitts contends, “What that means is there is going to be a much more broad-based bull market in gold. . . I think it’s going to more of a sound money system, and gold is going to be a part of that.” Not everybody wants to be brought into the so-called new world order. Fitts predicts, “Remember, to come out with a one world currency, you need everybody. There can be no leakage. There can be no exceptions. The Russians are determined to be the stinker at the party is what I think.” Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Catherine Austin Fitts, founder of The Solari Report.
By Alex Newman
Following Alabama’s lead, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve popular legislation protecting private-property rights and banning a controversial United Nations “sustainable development” scheme known as Agenda 21, which critics say represents a serious threat to American values and liberty. If approved by the Senate as expected, the law would also prohibit state and local governments from working with the UN or its affiliates to implement any sort of “international law” that violates the U.S. or Oklahoma constitutions.
The bill, H.B. 1412, was passed in the state House last week on a bipartisan vote, with a Republican-led coalition of 67 supporting the legislation against 17 Democrats who opposed the measure. It originally passed out of the States’ Rights Committee in late February and is now in the state Senate, where a broad coalition of activists — supporters of national sovereignty, private property, the Constitution, individual liberty, Tea Party groups, and more — is working to ensure its passage.
Of course, Oklahoma is just the latest state to take action against the highly controversial UN plan, which calls for a transformation of human civilization under the guise of promoting so-called “sustainability.” In May of last year, Alabama became the first state to officially ban UN Agenda 21 after a law to protect private property and due process rights was signed by Gov. Robert Bentley. The wildly popular bi-partisan legislation was approved unanimously in both houses of the state legislature.
Before that, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Tennessee adopted a resolution blasting the dubious UN agenda as a radical “socialist” plot at odds with individual liberty, private-property rights, and the U.S. Constitution. Lawmakers in Kansas followed suit. Numerous other state governments, under heavy pressure from activists across the political spectrum, are also working to ban the “sustainable development” scheme in their jurisdictions. City and county governments, meanwhile, are taking action to protect residents, too.
In Oklahoma, lawmakers said legislation was needed to defend citizens and their rights from the UN scheme as well. Despite having never been ratified by the U.S. Senate as required by the Constitution, supporters of the bill explained, officials at all levels — especially the federal executive branch, mostly using unconstitutional “grants” and decrees — have been quietly working to implement the controversial 1992 international agreement across America.
“House Bill 1412 is a short little bill, barely two pages long; it deals with a big topic though, protecting personal property rights,” noted Republican Rep. Sally Kern, who sponsored the legislation in the Oklahoma House. “This bill is specifically dealing with the intrusion of our government into personal property rights that has been happening for the last 20 years and is getting worse through the Agenda 21 of the UN, their sustainable development program.”
Rep. Kern pointed out that as many as 10 federal agencies under multiple U.S. administrations — George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama most recently — have been working to implement the UN scheme. She also offered numerous examples of the agenda being foisted on Oklahoma, noting that other states have passed similar legislation to protect citizens as well.
A handful of Democrats, apparently ignorant about UN Agenda 21, sounded confused during the questioning session on the House floor, asking bizarre questions such as whether or not cities would be barred from building bike lanes. Rep. Kern answered well. While noting that it is important to protect the environment, Kern said Oklahoma should not be subservient to outside forces — plus, as countless analysts have pointed out, Agenda 21 has little to do with protecting nature anyway.
“One of the goals of the United Nations Agenda 21 Initiative is to influence governments,” Kern explained. “My constituents are concerned about that influence and about their property rights being infringed upon by government regulations that originated from Agenda 21. My legislation addresses those concerns by protecting individual property rights.”
Kern said it was “very easy” to see what was going on and which organizations were linked to the controversial global plan, urging fellow lawmakers to do some research and check out the UN website itself. “You can go and look up the President’s Council on Sustainable Development,” she added, singling out ICLEI — formerly known as the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives — as one of the UN-linked groups working to foist the controversial “sustainability” plan on America and the world.
The ultimate UN plan was outlined and agreed to by national governments and dictatorships worldwide at the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. “Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts (sic) on the environment,” the UN admits on its website, sparking suspicions from analysts who point out that virtually every aspect of human existence has some “impact” on the “environment.”
When one realizes that the UN considers carbon dioxide — a gas exhaled by humans and necessary to plant life — to be a pollutant, the true scope of the global agenda becomes clear. Plus, as the UN admits in its documents, the global organization believes private ownership of land should be curtailed. Other official papers and statements reveal that the UN is seeking a “complete transformation” of the global economy in ways that are completely at odds with national sovereignty, individual liberty, American traditions of self-governance, and more. Even individuals’ thoughts are in the crosshairs, according to UN documents.
The Oklahoma bill passed by the House last week reads: “The state or any political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or implement policy recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe upon or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to United Nations Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.” Also prohibited under the measure is state or local government participation in “any other international law or ancillary plan of action that contravenes the Constitution of the United States or the Oklahoma Constitution.”
The legislation also ensures that state and local governments are barred from working with UN-linked groups promoting the controversial agenda. “Since the United Nations has accredited or enlisted numerous nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations to assist in the implementation of its policies relative to United Nations Agenda 21/Sustainable Development around the world, the state and all political subdivisions of the state shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, receive funds contracting services or give financial aid to or from any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations,” the bill continues.
Unsurprisingly, a few members of the increasingly discredited establishment press sought to demonize or ridicule supporters of the legislation, variously claiming that opposition to Agenda 21 was either a “conspiracy theory” or that the UN scheme is harmless. It remains unclear why supporters of the UN plot continue to falsely allege that opponents consider it a “conspiracy” — a conspiracy is secret by definition, and the global organization has documents about Agenda 21 and the goals all over its website.
Analysts have also pointed out that if, as some proponents of the scheme claim, the UN agenda is non-binding and does virtually nothing, such fiendish opposition to laws protecting private property and due process would seem bizarre, almost ludicrous. However, despite half-baked efforts by the UN and its allies to vilify opponents of Agenda 21, it appears that grassroots pressure within both parties is having a significant effect.
The Oklahoma legislation to ban Agenda 21 will be assigned to a state Senate committee soon — probably within the week, according to sources in the legislature. If it eventually passes, as analysts and lawmakers widely expect, the bill would go to Republican Governor Mary Fallin to be signed into law. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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