May 07, 2009
A country without property rights is not free...
By: Graham J. Sproule
Posted: April 5th, 2009
"Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve... See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish that law without delay... No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic."Frederic Bastiat, 1801-1850, French statesman and philosopher.
If you read history you will find that often a number of apparently minor and isolated incidents somehow correlate with each other to create events so large and important that they are referred to by historians as "revolutions" in the history of mankind. Who would have thought at the time it happened that the Boston Massacre would provide the necessary spark to set ablaze the fires of the American Revolution? And who would have thought that the Affair of the Diamond Necklace would dazzle the citizenry of France to such an extent that many would participate gleefully in the subsequent terror of the French Revolution? The answer is that no one living during the time they occurred could have known that these rather minor incidents would lead to two of the most momentous events in human history. And yet, had those living during these events read their history, they might not have immediately dismissed these events as insignificant.
One man who lived through the French Revolution was statesman and author Frederic Bastiat. Although less well-known to the English world than Edmund Burke, Bastiat also wrote of the violent plunder of the French Revolution. It was from these events that he was inspired to write how the law could effectively excuse criminal behaviour at the expense of law-abiding citizens. And perhaps more so than Burke, the French philosopher understood the perils of the state’s legal authority to confiscate the property of private citizens. Today, both would be called "conservative thinkers" because they recognized an inalienable right of every man to defend his property and his life. And from witnessing both of these Revolutions, both statesmen recognized that this inalienable right that could be violated, but not destroyed by the laws of the state.
What do two events and two persons of the eighteenth century have anything to do with twenty-first century Canada today? A great deal, since human nature hasn’t changed in two hundred years. Therefore it stands to reason that if we ignore these men, we ignore the implications of seemingly minor and isolated incidents in our own age at our own peril. The recent Knight Farm Raid and the Shanly Egg Raid of 2006 are two such incidents. After Albertan Brian Knight successfully defended his farm and caught one of three thieves, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in turn charged Knight with seven different criminal counts according to legal statues. Far away in Ontario, the latter incident involved the Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducting a legal raid on a family chicken farm in Ontario. This provoked a long stand-off with the Ontario Landowner’s Association led by Randy Hillier, another "knight" in defense of rural property rights.
Many are familiar with the passage from The American Declaration of Independence declaring “...that all men ...are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ...Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” However, we Canadians would do well to recall that the ideals of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" cannot be realized without "the right of private property and to bear arms in defense thereof." This more sombre affirmation, rooted in centuries-old British common law, is the bulwark of the "American counter-revolution" that led to the creation of Canada. American and French Revolutionaries wrongly assumed that injustice in society could be solved by perfecting their legal systems. Read Burke and Bastiat’s history and you know that it’s not legal systems but society’s "knights" who bring justice. These recent incidents may not be as insignificant as they seem. A property rights counter-revolution in Canada may be beginning.
Copyright 2009 - Graham Sproule