Have you ever seen the phrase above? I’ve encountered it only once, and that was in a fictional context:
“What made you think that I’d accept a gift of this kind?”
“It is not a gift, Mr. Rearden. It is your own money. But I have one favor to ask of you. It is a request, not a condition, because there can be no such thing as conditional property.”
Is that assertion factually correct? Or have developments in the sixty-five years since it was published replaced true, unconditional property that’s yours by right with conditional property – property that can be withdrawn from you like a government-issued license?
It’s worth a few minutes’ thought.
Ever since the infamous Kelo v. New London decision, in which the Supreme Court ratified a Connecticut city’s seizure of a whole neighborhood to turn over to a private developer, it’s been clear that there is no such thing as “real property” in these United States. Frankly, it was a belated recognition. What about property taxes? “Your” land and home can be take from you for not paying those levies, right? So how “real” was your “real property” before the Kelo decision?
The stories of cash seizures by police on absurd pretexts are now too many to enumerate. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the citizen thus victimized never gets any of his money back, despite never even being charged with a crime. Ironically, the usual reason is the amount it would cost the citizen in lawyer’s fees to sue successfully. However, there’s also the little matter, once the suit has been won, of forcing the government to issue the refund…which can take months or years after the refund is ordered.
Then there’s the banking system. You may feel secure about your savings, but how real are they? In the usual case you can’t touch them. No one could, for they consist of entries in a digital ledger. Under “normal” circumstances you can draw on them – once again, digitally – to pay various bills and other obligations. You can withdraw some of them as pieces of paper with steel engravings on them, whether through an ATM or at a bank teller’s window…for the moment. But the entire system is digital – virtual – and under the control of the Federal Reserve Board, whose members are political appointees and whom you probably couldn’t name.
I could go on. I could talk about cryptocurrencies, stocks and bonds, 401(k) and IRA accounts, town and county emergency-seizure ordinances, eminent domain…. The number of rationales under which a government can seize “your property” is sufficient to give anyone who reflects upon the matter a nice little chill. Perhaps you’re feeling that chill about now.
If Ragnar Danneskjold was correct, and there can be no such thing as conditional property, then does property exist at all?
There’s a good argument that it doesn’t. Property, in the original American conception, involved an individual right rather than a grant of permission. To seize it required extraordinary circumstances and specific actions. First, a case for the seizure had to be presented to a judge of the appropriate jurisdiction. If the judge deemed the case valid, he would issue an order of condemnation. But he would also order the relevant government to pay “just compensation” for the property seized. In no case could a man’s property – real or movable – be taken from him without all those steps first being taken and approved.
It’s not that way today. Eminent-domain proceedings have become a farce. Worse, “emergency” and “proceeds of crime” rationales are rubber-stamped in nearly every case. Even when it’s paid, “just compensation” seldom bears any resemblance to actual justice.
Those who find the state of affairs acceptable strive to dismiss the many documented injustices as infrequent “excesses,” exceptions to an otherwise acceptably just system. Susette Kelo’s “little pink house” was merely an unfortunate casualty of one such “excess.”
The matter of money and currency is more difficult for the statists to defend. Money was not the invention of any government. It came into existence through spontaneous order. Persons who traded in barter markets sought a way to refine their commerce and preserve some portion of what they had gained. Over the centuries one form of money would last for a while, then give way to a superior form, until the practical optimum – the precious metals – came to hold sway. When governments got involved, they swiftly substituted currencies for money, and contrived to seize the money metals for themselves. As banking blossomed and extended its scope, governments seized upon it as well. Eventually they replaced even the greater part of their irredeemable paper currencies with virtual systems entirely under their control. Thus we arrived at the state of affairs we endure today.
As for other forms of “property” such as stocks and bonds, have they any greater reality – or reliability – than the speedily devaluing pieces of paper in your wallet? Be prepared to show your work.
Just now, the Freedom Convoy of Canadian truckers opposed to the Trudeau Regime’s imposition of vaccination mandates upon their industry is the biggest news on Earth. Needless to say, the Mainstream Media are determined to avert our eyes from it. Nevertheless, it is so – so much so that Trudeau has fled Ottawa out of fear. But while we can and should celebrate this stroke in the cause of freedom, there are a few “grace notes” along the edges that deserve a moment’s attention.
The provincial government of Nova Scotia has threatened the truckers and anyone who supports them with massive fines. Canadian federal politicians have threatened to imprison the truckers and seize their trucks. And of course today’s most prominent enemies of freedom, AntiFa, are doing their best to incite actual violence that the government can blame on the Convoy. That would create a rationale for treating the Convoy members as terrorists – and these days that means the sky’s the limit. The January 6 protestors can tell you all about it.
If a political protest – merely a dramatic expression of dissent from a dictatorial policy that threatens the livelihoods of the protestors in particular and the well-being of Canadians generally – can be shut down in this fashion, the system will have triumphed. At this point in events, the outcome cannot be known.
“A man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun.” – Don Henley
“Without private property there can be no private decisions.” — Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
The men with briefcases are many…but we are many more. Their predations are made possible by our compliance with the system they’ve erected. They think it’s inescapable. Ask any one of them! “Give up,” they say. “It’s a closed system,” they’ll tell you. “You’re in it from the day you’re issued your Social Security number right up to the day you die. There’s no escape.”
We could put an end to their hegemony simply by refusing to participate in it. The reason they’ve succeeded to date is by offering us convenience. And there’s no question that their system makes things convenient…especially for them.
The price for that convenience has been staggering…and it increases daily.
Private property is essential to freedom.
Freedom is not given.
It is not legislated.
It is not permitted, licensed, or approved.
It is taken.
It’s time to give some thought to withdrawing your consent.