Private property and a moral society

In the last post, we noted that a free society–far from being an amoral nightmare–would be one where people have more control over their lives and neighborhoods and be better able to live as they ought.

This can be accomplished by eliminating public property. Every town has one or more streets in its business district. What would happen if the town deeded one street and its sidewalks back to the landowners along that street? It would be child’s play for the merchants to make alternative arrangements for security and upkeep, assuming they no longer have to pay for those through taxes. The most visible change would be that the now-private street owners are not bound by the rules that bind the state in policing that street. In public places, conduct that is not criminal must be tolerated no matter how obnoxious. The police—bound by the laws that protect us all—are powerless to act.

When the street is public property, then drug dealers, troublemakers and thieves must be tolerated even if it drives the rest of us out of the neighborhood. Only if such people are caught breaking the law can they be removed (temporarily) from public property.

If a business district were fully owned by the merchants of the district, they would see that it was well maintained with good access and plenty of parking. They would want the sidewalks to be free of people who harass or drive away customers. If the property included a formerly public park, the merchants would want it clean, safe and attractive to their customers. Individuals would conduct themselves by the rules or be barred from the property.

The private business district—like a private mall—would have the same rights as a person in their own home. Even in today’s society, we can do just about anything inside our homes as long as we do not infringe the rights of others. On the other hand, we have almost no rights inside another man’s home. We cannot smoke, drink the water, use the toilet, speak or even move without the owner’s leave. As much as we value our freedom of speech, our right to peaceably assemble or to bear arms, no such rights exist on another man’s property. If we do not abide by the owner’s rules, no matter how stupid or arbitrary, we are trespassers and can be made to leave.

Of course, a business owner does not want to exclude people. He wants them to come in and spend money. Whether he allows smoking, guns or alcohol is no one’s business but his . By these choices he caters to some and not to others. Such privatization would let the merchant control the entire environment and allow customers to choose those businesses or districts that meet their needs. The same sort of choice—now forbidden by government—would become the norm if private property replaced public ownership and voluntary agreements replaced governmental aggression.

In the next post, we will see how these principles might extend to our homes, neighborhoods and entire cities.

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