Pursuit of Happiness and Your Property Rights
In Genesis 1:28 we see instruction given to Adam and Eve by God. This is known as the Adamic Covenant. “God blessed them and said, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God is giving Adam property belongings to steward well. First, God says to fill the earth. Secondly, God tells them to subdue it. Lastly, God tells them to have dominion over it. Multiply, fill, subdue, and rule are tied to creativity and ingenuity. These require liberty. The word “fill” in Hebrew is connected to the word “replenish.” To replenish is scientific in nature. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “replenish” means to recover, supply with abundance, to refill, to restock, and refresh. This requires observation and skill on how to reinvest something that needs to be supplied again.
There is an accountability process with stewardship. For example, in the Noahic Covenant, which predates the Ten Commandments, we see you cannot murder and get away with it. Bylaws are established. Genesis 9 comes before Exodus 20 but do not contradict one another. The Ten Commandments are moral absolutes to live peaceably. Man must abide in them and protect from encroachments that would seek to steal rights given by God. This includes the right to private property.
According to the Ten Commandments, you cannot steal. What does fundamental law say about stealing? It is wrong. Ideally if a person is caught stealing, due process should be applied with justice carried out. If you murder, you forfeit your life. If you steal, you replace. If you destroy property, you mend or replace.
In Genesis 9:1-17, we see the Noahic Covenant or Rainbow Covenant. We see through these scriptures that private property is inherent to humanity. It is a gift from God, and we have a responsibility to tend it. Stewardship is a sacred offering to the Lord and is tied to our obedience and worship to the Creator.
So how do the scriptural references tie into our nation’s founding documents and still hold application?
The Declaration of Independence contains four core principles that hold freedom’s frame in place:
1. Self-evident truths (moral absolutes exist.)
2. Endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. (These are rights that not even government has the right to usurp.)
3. Consent of the governed. (The people have a voice.)
4. Pursuit of Happiness (The importance of free enterprise and private property rights.)
Governor William Bradford and the Pilgrims tried socialism. Bradford said this caused “much confusion and discontentment and prevented much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort and caused people to allege weakness and inability.” After many of the Pilgrims starved to death, Bradford made two very important changes. He implemented private property and free enterprise.
Bradford noted, “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious so as much more corn was planted, than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.”
The Founders knew that the cornerstone to a civil society was owning and maintaining private property. John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government was woven tightly into the American founding and into the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Constitution, also took Locke’s words to heart. Locke asserts:
“The government cannot take from any man any party this property without his consent. For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter society it necessarily supposes and requires, that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that by entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it, too gross an absurdity for any man to own.”
In Commentaries on the Laws of England which influenced our founding documents, William Blackstone also applauds the right to property:
“So great…is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community. If a new road, for instance, were to be made through the grounds of a private person, it might perhaps be extensively beneficial to the public; but the law permits no man, or set of men, to do this without the consent of the owner of the land.”
Owning and preserving property free from oppressive government intrusion serves as one of the core building blocks for a prosperous republic. James Madison, considered by many to be the Father of the Constitution, noted:
“Government is instituted no less for protection of property than of the persons, of individuals. The rights of property are committed into the same hands with the personal rights. Some attention ought, therefore, to be paid to property in the choice of those hands.”
Our Founders acknowledged that a crucial purpose of any legitimate government is the preservation of property. Founding Father John Adams wisely states, “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou Shalt not covet,” and “Thou Shalt not steal,” were the commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
The rights to private property are a natural right and are protected by natural law. You do not even need the laws of nature’s God to tell you that. If you come for a man’s private property, he will be about as favorable to it as a bird would be to a nest raider and act accordingly. For humanity, acquiring private property is the fruit of physical and intellectual labor. The Framers knew safeguards were needed to protect and prevent from government theft. The Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights is clear: “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
The Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment is a provision that holds the government responsible for compensating the owner of the property if the government takes it for some deemed public good. Arguments ensue over what constitutes “a taking.” Those who embrace power grabs by the federal government claim that “a taking” occurs only when the government physically seizes property.
However, “a taking” also occurs when the government, by an act of Congress, state legislature, or by an administrative regulation, destroys or diminishes the market value of a private property. These are called “regulatory takings.” Regulatory takings are similar to a physical taking. They impose significant restrictions on the property owner’s use of the property. The property owner can suffer financial setbacks if the restriction prevents economic development or the private use of their property.
Currently, the Supreme Court looks for ways to usurp unconstitutionally and increase power. They help other federal government entities usurp as well. This is a disservice and embarrassment to our founding and to the role of government branches.
According to the Constitution of the United States, the Supreme Court is the weakest link in the three branches of government, yet it aids in “regulatory takings” and undermines compensating the property owner. The criteria that define “a taking” is muddy and confounded. There is really no set formula to calculate how to compensate.
Frederic Bastiat warned us of legal plunder in The Law. We are living in post Constitutional times where we feel the weight of tyranny. Liberalism and Anti-Constitutional Republicanism equal government handouts and government takings. Constitutional Republicanism, which is America’s founding intent, promotes capitalism and private property.
Citizens are put through ridiculous rationales to justify why they should not be “taken from.” The right to own property is a natural and fundamental right that should receive the highest of legal protection. The citizen should not be the one jumping through hoops to prove government plunder. This is twisted and indicative of theft committed by a treasonous government. The burden should be placed on the government’s shoulders to justify “a taking” as necessary for public interest, and then the responsibility should be placed on the government to compensate for the negative impact placed on the property interests of the owner.
Rarely, preserving private property rights under legitimate authority can be “a taking” and can sometimes be justified. Before our Constitution, it was widely accepted with common sense that one neighbor did not have the right to interfere negatively or injure another neighbor’s property. You do not pollute upstream if you own land and expect it to be okay that you have polluted your neighbor downstream. The government exercises proper authority to protect and preserve societal good in that case. Government in that way is not trying to expand or enlarge itself. It is not trying then to confiscate for governmental purpose. The difference is clear and so is the principle.
Sadly, the government takes so liberally from the American citizen that there is not a reliable calculation by which to tally the cost of restitution. The government is swelling on its engorgement of regulatory feasting. Shall we call it like we see it? The government steals from its citizens. Why do we allow it?
What do we do? Where can we start to fight this theft?
We need practical proposals through the amendment process. We need to start local. We need to know our local laws and state constitutions. We need to make sure that legitimate governance protects private property rights. This also comes with understanding its obligation to pay the private property owner when government interferes with private ownership and use of private property for public interest.
If government action serves the public interests, the public must and should assume the responsibility and compensate the property owner who suffers the loss. The government should produce a cost/benefit analysis. This would require the burden and responsibility be placed on the government. To whom it costs, there is more willingness to be a good steward of the decision.
The Takings Clause is important enough to be in the Fifth Amendment. We should heed what it says. Citizens must educate themselves and others on truth, founding intent, and their role as civil stewards of the gifts we have been given.
Put the lid on government! We must restore liberty the way the Founders intended per the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The federal and state governments are corrupt, and they will not stop taking until We the People put an end to it. Read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and most importantly, God’s Holy Word. Read, study, and know these precepts to defend and assert their foundational truths. Onward!
Rebecca Chaney is the Director for Restore Liberty Mississippi, and she sits on the board for the Mississippi Freedom Caucus. She is a lifetime Patriot Academy Constitution Coach and has hosted Biblical Citizenship and Constitutional classes since 2020. She has helped to start these classes across the state of Mississippi. She is a homeschool Mom of seven years to her son and daughter.