Sunday, August 23, 2009


"This term in its particular application means "that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.
In its
larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.

...He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them...

...Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.
Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause."

-- James Madison; from Property as published in the National Gazette

Given such a definition, the protection of property being the chief concern of government appears rather different from how it is taught from the orthodox view. Indeed, the "larger and juster" meaning would seem to be that which prevails upon the other. This principle seems to operate in concert with human conscience, which would indeed seem necessary in a government composed of "We the people"

As I explored in my last post, there are certain natural rights that individuals--for the sake of security--exchange for civil rights:

"if a way could be Devised to exchange that quantity of Danger into so much protection, so that each individual Should possess the strength of the whole Number."

But what represents danger to the individual? Most of the obvious dangers are accounted for in our Bill of Rights, but another, the unmitigated accumulation of capital (an excess of liberty?) remains unaccounted for. Our county's sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln warned of this

"In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism... the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor... Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation."

It would seem that, given our historical recognition of the property in an individual's labors, that there ought to be a readily available mechanism for the protection of such property.