by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn devotes the latest issue of Imprimis to a speech emphasizing the tight bonds between private property rights and protections for religious liberty. Arnn chastises those who emphasize one of those goals at the other’s expense.
Today in America we can see as well that the heart of the leftward movement in our government is a claim against property. The claim goes this way: the divisions among us are as deep as they are because of economic inequality, and if we do not address that inequality today, it will worsen tomorrow. Many well-meaning Christians think this way.
On the other side, recognizing that property is at the heart of the political argument we are having these days, are those who say that all that is needed is to protect property rights. Get money right and get property right, these people think, and leave it at that — leave morality and religion out of the political equation. But that way of thinking too is foolish.
The most formidable enemies of property rights are formidable precisely because they know better than to separate the issue of property rights from the issue of other freedoms, including freedom of conscience and religious liberty. They know better because they see that human beings are an odd integrity of soul and body. Marx is clear-sighted about this. He understands that if you like the way the human being is organized — if you like the integrity — then you are going to have to protect it all. And if you do not like it, you are going to have to uproot it all. Thus he makes clear in the Communist Manifesto that overthrowing the age-old institution of property will involve as well “the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.” If private property is going to be abolished, everything will have to be abolished. Marriage and religion are two prominent examples in Marx’s writings.