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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-7


A Commentary on Property and Taxation


Part 4



Although these essays concentrate mostly on the subject of liberty, the right to private property imparts further benefits, which rightly need to be acknowledged, among those being justice, peace, and prosperity.  These benefits are exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to gain and maintain without the full exercise of the right to private property.  We hold first claim on our labor because, as simplistic as it sounds, our labor is our own.  We have a God-given right to our own labor, and no one else, no group of people, and no government has any claim upon it unless such claim is entered into voluntarily:


It is an essential unalterable right in nature . . . that what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but cannot be taken from him without his consent . . . The moment the idea is admitted into a 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.  Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.  (Samuel Adams, 1768).


By extension, the fruit of our labor is our own.  And further, anything for which we trade (purchase with) our labor, or the fruit of our labor, becomes our own.  In short, we have a God-given right of ownership, the right to private property.  We have the right to possess, use, and dispose of it, as we will. If this is not the case, then man is chattel, an indentured servant, a serf, and a slave — the property, by default, of him who does have first claim on the labor.  The loss to any degree of the right to private property is most keenly felt by the poorest among us simply because, counterintuitively, they have the least private property to lose.  The acknowledgement of, the adherence to, and the enforcement by government of the God-given right to private property are fundamental keys to a government which shall effect our “Safety and Happiness” in a manner most positive.


At this point, you have been introduced to the view of private property and the blessings thereof as this author, Imitatus Publius, views them.  It is up to you to decide if said author is anywhere near the mark.  Assuming you think he is, which may be entirely presumptuous on his part, take stock of the state of affairs that exist today.


Today the government exercises the power (note that we did not say authority) to:

1) seize your property before you are convicted of a “crime,” sometimes before you are even officially charged with that crime;

2) place an income tax, over and above your objections, on the private property of the fruit of your labor, which is the same as your labor;

3) place a tax, over and above your objections, on private property you have acquired by an exchange of your labor (i.e. your home is paid for but there is a further annual property tax, and your automobile is paid for but there is an annual licensure fee).


At the risk of trying your patience, once again harken back to previous discussions.  (We could forgo this if it wasn’t so important.)


It has been well said that, “The property which every man has is his own labor, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable.  The patrimony of the poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his own hands, and to hinder his employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper, without injury to his neighbor, is a plain violation of the most sacred property.” (Emphasis added).      (Butchers’ Union Co. v. Crescent City Co., 111 U.S. 746, p757, 1883.)


The third ingredient towards constituting the vigor of the executive authority is an adequate provision for its support.  It is evident that without proper attention to this article, the separation of the executive from the legislative department would be merely nominal and nugatory.  The legislature, with a discretionary power over the salary and emoluments of the Chief Magistrate, could render him as obsequious (submissive) to their will as they might think proper to make him.  They might, in most cases, either reduce him by famine, or tempt him by largesses (sic), to surrender at discretion his judgment to their inclinations.  These expressions, taken in all the latitude of the terms, would no doubt convey more than is intended.  There are men who could neither be distressed nor won into a sacrifice of their duty; but this stern virtue is the growth of few soils; and in the main it will be found that a power over a man’s support is a power over his will.  If it were necessary to confirm so plain a truth by facts, examples would not be wanting, even in this country, of the intimidation or seduction of the executive by the terrors or allurements of the pecuniary arrangements of the legislative body. (Emphasis added).  (Federalist Papers, No. 73).


Next to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support.  The remark made in relation to the President is equally applicable here.  In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.  And we can never hope to see realized in practice the complete separation of the judicial from the legislative power, in any system, which leaves the former dependent for pecuniary resources on the occasional grants of the latter.  The enlightened friends to good government in every State have seen cause to lament the want of precise and explicit precautions in the State constitutions on this head (topic).  Some of these indeed have declared that permanent * salaries should be established for the judges; but the experiment has in some instances shown that such expressions are not sufficiently definite to preclude legislative evasions.  Something still more positive and unequivocal has been evinced to be requisite.  The plan of the convention accordingly has provided that the judges of the United States “shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”  (* Vide Constitution of Massachusetts, Chapter 2, Section 1, Article 13).  (Italics in original, bold added).  (Federalist Papers, No. 79).


“ . . . a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will . . . ”  Because Hamilton took the occasion, regarding both the executive and the judicial branches, to drive home this lesson, it is quite apparent that he considered this a very significant and consequential instruction.  (This author also considers it important enough to discuss more than once.)  He stipulates even more clearly, that to make the judiciary dependent for pecuniary resources (their daily bread) on the occasional grants of the latter (legislative) would make them submissive to the will of the Legislature. Those efforts that had already been made were not sufficiently definite to preclude legislative evasions.  Something still more positive and unequivocal has been evinced to be requisite.  He stated that an effort more definite in restraining the legislature had been made because the legislative branch could not be trusted in all instances.  Which of us could take issue with him?




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