by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Roy Cordato’s piece today on Roy Cooper’s self-serving distinction between people and property is a strong read. The column is in answer to the governor’s feeble justification for law enforcement allowing rioters to destroy shops and restaurants: “People are more important than property.”
This connection between people and their property – what Rand called the “product of their effort” or what we often call the “fruits of their labor” – is considered so fundamental, it forms the foundation of the North Carolina Constitution. The Constitution’s “Declaration of Rights” (Article I, Section 1) states that “all persons…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Emphasis added.)
The N.C. Constitution recognizes that a person’s wellbeing, his right to not only liberty and the pursuit of happiness but to life itself, is inextricably connected with his rights to property, “the fruits of his own labor.”
This is particularly true of the kind of destruction that occurred in cities across North Carolina on the weekend of May 30. 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.
Perhaps this seems too academic? Cordato shows how many potential lives are affected:
But business property of the type that was damaged, looted, and destroyed (and whose importance was diminished by Cooper) plays an even broader role in people’s lives. This was all property that serves as a platform for advancing not only the wellbeing of the business owners, but also the wellbeing of the employees of those businesses and their families, and the customers of those businesses who depend on the products and services that they sell. To discount the importance of the restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacies, and other establishments that were destroyed is to discount the importance of these people.
The fact is that the importance of property is derived directly from its role in advancing people’s wellbeing.
Speaking of callous disregard for lives and livelihoods, some of those businesses that were physically damaged are still forbidden from operating or fully reopening, under orders by Cooper and Cooper alone.