The Importance of Property

by Don Boudreaux on September 30, 2004

in Law

The always-insightful Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe has this fine column today on the eminent-domain case that the Supreme Court will hear this coming term. (And here’s my earlier post on this issue.)

While I agree with those – including, no less, Thomas Jefferson – who insist that we ought not forget that the men and women of America’s founding generation were human beings rather than demi-gods, we ought also not forget that they understood better and more consistently than Americans do today that secure private property rights provide an indispensable foundation for a civil, peaceful, and prosperous society. Here’s one of my favorite quotation on the matter from John Adams:

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘THOU SHALT NOT COVET’ and ‘THOU SHALT NOT STEAL,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.

[From, The Works of John Adams, Vol. 6, C. F. Adams, ed., 1850.]

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