Conservatives Abandon Property Rights

by | Aug 20, 2022

Conservatives should remember their past support for property rights. But more importantly, they need to discover what that principle truly means. Until they do so, conservatives will continue to abandon property rights.

Conservatives have long professed support for gun rights and property rights. However, in recent years conservatives have shown an increasing proclivity to abandon property rights, sometimes in the name of “gun rights.”. Political expediency, not principles, is guiding this trend.

As an example, when Big Tech prohibits the expression of certain ideas, conservatives have responded by calling for regulation of companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. A principled defender of property rights would recognize and defend the right of Big Tech companies to use their property as they judge best.

Or, when some businesses wanted to require vaccine passports for entry onto their property, conservatives rushed to pass laws that prohibit vaccine passports. A principled defender of property rights would recognize and defend the right of businesses to establish the terms and conditions by which others can enter or use their property.

As a final example, conservatives in at least 24 states have passed laws requiring private property owners to allow the possession of guns on their property (often called “gun-at-work” laws). A principled defender of property rights would recognize and defend the right of property owners to determine what they will and will not allow on their property.

In each of these cases, conservatives failed to act on the principle of property rights. Instead, to gain political favor with their base, conservatives opted to abandon property rights by dictating what property owners may and may not do.

The right to property means the freedom to produce, trade, and use material values. The owner of property has a moral right to determine the terms and conditions by which he will trade with others or allow them on his property. If we want the freedom to use and trade as we judge best, then we must defend the freedom of others to do the same, even when we disagree with their choices.

Writing about “gun-at-work” laws, Ilya Somin notes the examples cited above. He states,

These developments are dangerous and troubling. Conservatives would do well to remember their traditional respect for property rights.

I agree that conservatives should remember their past support for property rights. But more importantly, they need to discover what that principle truly means. Until they do so, conservatives will continue to abandon property rights.

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Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

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