Site menu:


April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-7


A Commentary on Property and Taxation


Part 2



As a matter of clarification, the author recognizes that there is some need for the revenue generated by property taxes and licensure.  The topic of how this can be accomplished is not within the scope of this chapter, so we will not dwell long here.  But as a short example, the licensure revenue is supposed to be used to build and maintain the public roadways.  The proper method to fund those roadways is to bill those who use the roadways in direct proportion to their usage.  One appropriate method to do this is a use tax, sales tax, or consumption tax, if you will.  The reason it is appropriate is that it is found in the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, Clause 1.  Our Founders viewed this method of taxation to be an excise tax.  In fact, we already use this method, as the consumer already pays a sales tax on fuel at the pump.  One could suppose this method already raises the lion’s share of the needed revenue for the intended purpose.  We need only finish the job.


As we progress through this essay, and forever after, for that matter, I fervently hope you will keep in your mind the definition of “private property” we forged from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.  It will be the reference from which this essay will be written.  We have addressed private property many, many times over the course of the preceding commentaries, though we didn’t always use the term “private property.”  The term of choice was the “fruit of your labor.”  There was purpose to this.  It wasn’t to encourage you to develop a complex of unmitigated selfishness, far from it.  It was to cause you to develop a sense that your own labor is the origin of property.  Certainly, one’s labor is his “own property.”  In fact, it is the one piece of property that everyone possesses, even the poorest among us.  Further, the fruit of that labor is also the property of the laborer.


In order to better make the point, let us turn to someone with far greater capabilities than this author, to someone with whom I am confident our Founders were totally familiar and upon whom they relied as they designed our form of government, John Locke.


God, who hath given the World to Men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of Life, and convenience.  The Earth, and all that is therein, is given to Men for the Support and Comfort of their being.  And though all the Fruits it naturally produces, and Beasts it feeds, belong to Mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of Nature; and nobody has originally a private Dominion, exclusive of the rest of Mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state:  yet being given for the use of Men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other before they can be of any use, or are at all beneficial to any particular Man.  The Fruit or Venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no Inclosure (sic), and is still a Tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life.


Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person.  This nobody has any Right to but himself.  The Labour of his body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.  Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned [joined] to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.  It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men.  For this Labour being the unquestionable property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joyned [joined] to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.


He that is nourished by the Acorns he pickt [picked] up under an Oak, or the Apples he gathered from the Trees in the Wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself.  No Body can deny but the nourishment is his.  I ask then, When did they begin to be his?  When he digested them?  Or when he eat?  Or when he boiled?  Or when he brought them home?  Or when he pickt [picked] them up?  And ’tis plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could.  That labour put a distinction between them and common.  That added something to them more than Nature, the common Mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right.  And will anyone say he had no right to those Acorns or Apples he thus appropriated, because he had not the consent of all Mankind to make them his?  Was it Robbery thus to assume to himself what belonged to all in Common?  If such a consent as that was necessary, Man had starved, notwithstanding the Plenty God had given him.  We see in Commons, which remain so by Compact, that ‘tis the taking any part of what is common, and removing it out of the state Nature leaves it in, which begins the Property; without which the Common is of no use.  And the taking of this or that part, does not depend on the express consent of all the Commoners.  Thus the Grass my Horse has bit; the Turfs my Servant has cut; and the Ore I have digg’d [dug] in any place where I have a right to them in common with others, become my Property, without the assignation or consent of any body.  The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my Property in them. (Emphasis in original).  (Two Treatises of Government, Book II, Chapter V).




Click here for pdf copy of this Policy Study


All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at