Add property ownership to list of endangered rights

Phyllis Hunsinger

“Within a frame of transformation, the edges of the energy system begin to soften and meld into other notions of property, beyond private resource ownership and toward conceptions of shared management and control,” said Shalanda Baker, the law professor on leave from Northeastern University and nominee to become director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Think about that statement for a moment. The right to own and use private property and other resources for personal and public benefit is an essential characteristic of a market economy. Individual rights to own and use private property and make economic choices about this property are protected by the Constitution. 

So what does this aspiring bureaucrat mean when she says we need to go “beyond private resource ownership and toward conceptions of shared management and control?” Is she suggesting nationalization, the process of transforming privately owned assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ownership of a national or state government?

For the past year, the private property rights of landlords have been affected by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention edict forbidding them from evicting tenants. These orders have forced landlords to accommodate tenants who can’t pay rent with no consideration or compensation to landlords. Doesn’t this violate the notion the law protects economic choice about private property? Even after the Supreme Court ruled the moratorium on collecting rent needed congressional action before it could be implemented, the Joe Biden administration ignored the ruling and reimposed the rent moratorium in many counties in the United States.

Sean Ross of Investopedia wrote: “Private property rights are central to a capitalist economy, its execution and its legal defenses. Capitalism is built on the free exchange of goods and services between different parties, and nobody can rightfully trade property they don’t own. Conversely, property rights provide a legal framework for prosecuting aggression against non-voluntary means of acquiring resources; there is no need for capitalist trade in a society where people could simply take from others what they want by force or the threat of force. Private property promotes efficiency by giving the owner of resources an incentive to maximize its value.”

Losing the right to own property in the U.S. will be accomplished in the same insidious way Americans are gradually losing free speech and other rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Faceless bureaucrats declare some emergency du jour and trample or confiscate individual rights for the perceived good of society. Despite rhetoric about the greater good, the people who suffer most when individual rights are undermined — including the right to own property — are usually poor people, minorities and others with little political power. 

When Shalanda Baker speaks of rethinking the notion of private property and the need to embrace concepts of shared management and control, does she include water? In Colorado, individuals own water. Does she include your business? Once the erosion of individual rights begins, where will it end? 

Private property rights and the market economy are at risk. Citizens must wake up.