Perspectives: When it comes to property rights, the motto is ‘Busybodies of the world unite!’

Composite stock image, St. George News

OPINION — When Marx and Engels wrote their Communist Manifesto, their call to action was “Workers of the world unite!”

Under communism, there could be no inequality. Nor could there be private property.

In the 170 years since the manifesto was first published, it has been fascinating to note how many of the planks of its platform have been implemented into our everyday lives. Notable planks include a heavily graduated income tax, centralization of credit through a national bank with an exclusive monopoly and free education for all children in government schools.

Perhaps the most fascinating plank is the very first one that calls for abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.

It doesn’t appear that this plank has yet been fully implemented, but it’s still clear that private property rights have been watered down to being nearly meaningless.

From civil asset forfeiture to eminent domain to zoning and land use regulations, our property rights have become subject to unlimited government control at nearly every level. If you doubt this, simply fail to pay the yearly property tax on a piece of property which you own free and clear.

Eventually the “real” owner will show up with armed men to kick you out and to take possession of what you only thought was yours. Why do we continue to pretend that this system is what has always been synonymous with property rights?

A more common manifestation of the denial of property rights can be seen in how the average citizen will clamor for municipal authorities to prevent his neighbor from using his own property.

This collectivist mindset has become increasingly common in and around St. George and now is taking hold among some in Cedar City as municipalities clamp down on short term rentals. Public officials claim authority to deny property owners the ability to rent an extra room or portion of their home to someone who is staying for less than 30 days.

The official justification is typically some threadbare cliche of how such policy preemptively prevents an AirBnb or VBRO home from attracting lawless party-goers, excessive traffic, noise, etc. Of course, each of these potential nuisances can already be addressed under existing ordinances on a case-by-case basis.

But the kind of folks who live to tell others what to do have historically preferred the centralized approach of a blanket ban on certain property owners’ rights. They have subscribed to the idea that the force of government is simply another tool for getting one’s way.

Their call to action sounds more like “Busybodies of the world unite!”

Whatever is not under the direct control of some subdivision of the state is considered to be out of control. This is the creed of statism.

Homeowners have been persuaded that a legitimate function of local government is to protect their presumptive property values via micromanaging what their neighbors do with their own property. It is the most common expression of “not in my backyard” we’re likely to encounter.

It’s one more reason that we should carefully consider what is seen and what is unseen when a blanket approach restricts property rights and people are denied the ability to use property that they own.

As far as what’s seen, banning short term rentals is most likely providing some welcome protection from potential competition to hotel owners who are members of the local chamber of commerce. That’s a plus for them but comes at considerable cost to other property owners.

What’s not seen is how some property owners could genuinely benefit from being able to rent a portion of their home short term to help them pay their mortgage during lean times. If you want to understand how truly sick our society has become toward one another, just understand that this is where many people will protest that it’s unfair for their neighbor to generate income through use of their own property.

Under this mindset, they’ll cheer whatever authority they can convince to go after their neighbor, without having ever suffered a quantifiable harm. This means they possess zero moral authority.

Busybodies sometimes claim that if any type of commerce takes place, that this automatically justifies government to step in and regulate every aspect of their operation. The underlying premise here is that a business must partner with government, at some level, in order to be legitimate.

Government is only too happy to justify its existence and will gladly tax and regulate anyone who’s willing to line up and beg for its permission. Instead of lobbying for equality in misery under bureaucratic rule, why not seek to lighten the burden for those who choose to open a business?

Envy and the need to control other people, combined with obliging government authority are destroying our remaining respect for our rights and for each other.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Guy August 20, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    I live in Lake Forest Park,Wa just North of Seattle.
    We don’t have anything to do with Seattle. It’s become a pithole!!
    I hope Utah doesn’t follow the same path as Washington State.
    It’s amazing to me how Utah is becoming a Washington State “wanna be”
    It seems like Utah and cities within Utah are following the same exact path.
    I can’t believe how much Utah has gone downhill since I lived there.

    • PogoStik August 21, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Guy, In what ways are Utah changing for the worst? I can understand that maybe SLC with its growth, air quality, and crime, but the rest of Utah is still pretty rural. St. George is currently experiencing a non-sustainable growth rate that will eventually be tempered by lack of water resources. Interesting in hearing your details, Guy.

  • bikeandfish August 22, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Once again I think Hyde brings up an important issue but is extremely radical in his take. Private property is a cornerstone of American values and constitutionalism but the details of that issue are not black and white. Unfortunately Hyde simply offers another polemic without much detail or support to discuss a critical subject that is a major issue in the Intermountain West as our communities are changing at an ever increasing rate.

    I’ve read Hyde’s columns for more than a year now and spent time listening to his “radio show” and he constantly makes these unreasonable, unsupported and illogical jumps. Its always clear that he values ideology over nuance and that priority ultimately hurts an informed citizenry. We need more educated, thoughtful libertarians challenging us to consider the implications of our choices in the face of liberty but we need these pundits to recognize our nation needs more fact based dialog and not more ideologues. And the irony of it all is we need pundits who remain vulnerable to the facts and changing their own minds if they want us to do the same. But that is a rare quality in these columnists who seem solely interested in moving the dialog in one direction. In the spirit of Hyde’s premise, I think his focus on power and influence is hypocritical given his own rigidity and tactics. I mean few people have as much power as talking heads and radio personalities like him in modern media.

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