Widespread democratic ownership of personal property is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. Diverse racial and gender ownership is even more recent.
People in communist China do not really “own” their land, business or equipment; Chinese leaders “allow” select people to operate their business on a quasi-capitalistic basis. Sadly, as seven million residents of Hong Kong are finding out, all of their personal property and freedom can be wiped out at a moment’s notice because the State ultimately owns everything, not the individual.
President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are fond of telling American business owners: “You did not build your business!”
You are an American. Regardless of your race, sex, age or religious belief, you did build your own business. You do own your own land. You do own your own buildings, machinery and technology. You took the risk, invested your capital, sweated out weekly payrolls and had the creativity and perseverance to get your business to the point where hopefully it would make a profit one day.
You executed mutually agreed-upon contractual deals to buy your building and equipment. You are entitled to run your business as you see fit simply because you are an American, not because any elected government official told you what to do.
Americans have a spiritual connection to their property. There is a reason for such a radical revolutionary concept.
John Locke wrote about the rights of man in the late 17th century in England which became the foundational bricks and blocks of the American democratic republic. Locke believed every person derived their “rights” directly from God above, whether they were a believer or not, not from earthly royalty, including modern government.
Each person was entitled to the “fruits of their own labor” as written in the Old Testament. When a person farmed a piece of land, that land became part of his inherent God-given “right,” because with his own hands, he could provide food for his own family and sell the rest if he desired.
Locke wrote about the right of every person to engage in the “pursuit of property” in his Second Treatise along with the other inalienable rights of life and liberty. Thomas Jefferson later translated Locke’s phrase into the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, but both were drawing from the intellectual philosophical well of Aristotle who wrote about “doing and living well” (eudaimonia) in his Nicomachean Ethics 2,000 years previous.
When personal property is destroyed in America, it is an affront to the American who owns it. It violates his or her conception of the “pursuit of happiness” and personal dreams of “living and doing well.” No man or government has the right to take those dreams away from anyone else unless that person has violated the law in an egregious manner.
Businesses and property are not just inanimate bricks-and-mortar and sheet-rocked objects, as some politicians said in the aftermath of the riots over the past weeks. No elected public official nationwide has stated if she or he suffered any personal property damage from the riots, so they are operating from a cocoon of safety away from the pain of having to rebuild a business once again.
The fundamental reason to have government in the first place is to provide a police force and judicial system to help protect the personal property and safety of everyone in a city, state or nation. When elected officials fail to order law enforcement officers to protect the property of innocent, law-abiding citizens, they violate the essence of American democratic republicanism at its core.
The destruction of property during the riots knew no boundaries when it came to race, gender or political affiliation. Blacks, whites, Latinos, men, women, gays, conservatives and liberals alike had windows smashed out and furniture, computers and files destroyed.
Just like that, over one violent weekend, living and working in downtown urban settings stopped being cool to millions of people, young and old. It may take decades to recover.