Ray Haynes

Standing For Liberty, Part VII; Freedom of Contract and Private Property Rights

We are all familiar with our basic first amendment rights; that is, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances (basically the right to sue in a court of law), but how many actually think about the two most basic economic rights, freedom of contract and private property rights.

In fact, without these two basic rights, all the rest of the rights are meaningless, and the proponents of big government know this. That is why the first thing that is done to undermine liberty is to take away the freedom to contract for goods and services in whatever fashion you may want, and to steal private property rights. Without the freedom of contract, the ability of an individual to pursue gainful employment is severely restricted, and without private property rights, the fruits of our labor are constantly at risk. What is worse, if anyone believes that they government can, with impunity, take his or her business or property, all the other freedoms (speech, religion, association) are meaningless. People will die in the defense of freedom, but not go bankrupt in its defense. If you die in defense of freedom, people sing songs about you. If you go bankrupt in the defense of freedom, your family still looks at you when you come home each night and says “where’s the food?”

If the government can take you land or business with regulation or simple confiscation, business owners shut up and go along. They lose their freedom of speech. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this question, what developer will openly criticize a member of local government in front of which they have a project? And if they won’t criticize an elected official, of what value is their freedom of speech?

We have no freedom of contract in this state. All of our major contracts, to buy or finance a house or car, to buy or finance a major appliance, employment contracts, automobile and house warranties, all the really critical items over which we transact business everyday, are written by the government. Don’t believe me? Read the California Civil Code. It is full of contracts written by legislators. The result? The cost of housing, automobiles, appliances, thousands of every day items, have skyrocketed to provide protection that legislators think the public wants. Rather than give you and me a choice, that is, to buy the refrigerator for $50 less, they make us by a warranty, by requiring the manufacturer to provide that warranty. The manufacturer does it, whether we want it or not, and charges us for it.

The same with private property. The land we own is so over regulated, with general plans, specific plans, zoning and building codes, and a myriad of other regulations, that we really don’t have private property rights in this country anymore, and without those private property rights, we really have no political liberty, no freedom of speech, association, and the like.

Regulations and controls on freedom of contract and private property rights is how our petty bureaucrats and politicians maintain control over the private sector. If Republicans are to gain a majority in California, they are going to have to say clearly, and without equivocation, that they want to restore freedom of contract and private property rights. Once again, people understand how the government has taken away their liberty, by controlling how they barbeque, how they drive their car, even how they fill up their gas tank (recent regulations have required the removal of those handles that pump gas even if you are not there. Today, in many gas stations, if you have to use the bathroom, you have to fill up your tank, and then go). We are daily faced with these continuing intrusions, and constantly fighting against a government that thinks its job is to control us, rather than protect us.

Economic liberty is the key to political liberty, and freedom of contract and private property rights are the keys to economic liberty. When Republicans actually take up the cause of economic and political liberty, they will restore the trust of Joe Everyvoter, and build a lasting, governing coalition.