by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
It’s a sentiment that has been shared time and time again: “People are more important than property.” Gov. Roy Cooper even shared these words on Twitter in late May following several riots that raged across the state. While it’s true that many would have their house burn down than personally go up in flames, insisting that “things could be worse” is not particularly comforting to a victim of arson. That is the sentiment of Dr. Roy Cordato’s recent research brief on the property destruction that has followed unlawful protests across the country. Dr. Cordato writes:
The apparent purpose of his tweet was to downplay the moral outrage that many were expressing over the looting and destruction of buildings and businesses in several of North Carolina’s downtown districts, including Raleigh and Fayetteville. The clear message that he was sending was that it’s only property that was being destroyed, not people’s lives…
The destruction of businesses is an especially egregious form of property destruction and denial of property rights. It is equivalent to breaking a baseball player’s throwing arm or a pianist’s fingers. It takes away a person’s right to make a living, that is, to realize the fruits of his or her labor. In other words, it destroys a person’s ability to sustain his or her life.
Dr. Cordato believes that the purpose of the tweet was to downplay the tragedy of what happened on May 30. Businesses were destroyed and burned – even the International Civil Rights Museum, where the famous 1960 Woolworth’s sit-in was conducted, was damaged. Cordato writes:
It is unreasonable to think that Gov. Cooper’s statement was made in ignorance of all this. It is more likely that the purpose of Cooper’s statement was to draw attention away from his failure to protect the property rights of many of the state’s business owners…
To show disrespect for peoples’ property is to show disrespect for people. And to the degree one’s property is destroyed or taken away, so too is his or her life.