Human language

Property rights begin with the house

This article is featured in the fall edition of our quarterly magazine Sword & Scales. To read the full edition, visit:


When I started in the libertarian public interest legal movement – 17 years ago! – my work focused exclusively on property rights. In fact, it was my interest in this issue that led me to start out as what I called a professional troublemaker (or community organizer, according to the public) with the Institute for Justice in 2004.

What struck me in my work of over a decade and a half to help impose constitutional limits on government power is that we sometimes do our camp a disservice by using esoteric legal language. or overly philosophical terminology.

When I was giving presentations on preventing governments from taking property by eminent domain – not for public uses like roads or schools, but for private uses like condominiums or malls – I was trying to surprise myself by discussing the concept of property rights, or at the very least developing what I meant beyond the sentence.

Of course, property has no inherent rights. We naturally have property rights. Debates about property rights are therefore not about property. They are on people.

And in human history the most important property that we have tended to own is our home.

This is where we celebrate and cry, laugh and play, break bread and grow. There is value that is both intrinsic and real, the latter often serving as a way for us to do other things in life, like educating our children or starting a business.

The sad reality is that government rules often prevent us from experiencing all of these things. There are countless stories of people who have been caught in the crosshairs of bad policy, especially in housing, and how it got us to where we are today, a place where the creation of new homes is expensive, difficult and sometimes just plain forbidden. . These are the concrete results of the housing crisis.

PLF is moving forward with plans to significantly expand our litigation over property rights and legalize housing production, focusing initially on secondary housing (or ADU).

After all, how we treat property – ourselves – is ultimately up to us. The onus of the Pacific Legal Foundation is to ensure that it is done with respect.

This article is featured in the fall edition of our quarterly magazine Sword and Ladders. Read the full edition tour:

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