Free Speech as a Function of Private Property

Property rights are the basis of freedom. Social freedom and economic freedom are in fact inseparable as both are derived from property rights. As a libertarian, I believe humans ought to deal with each other on peaceful and non-violent terms with one another. This is precisely why I am against the regulation and control of people’s decisions whether it be in the market place or in their private lives. I define liberty as simply the absence of coercion. This is the only non-contradictory way to define liberty. In order to be free from coercion, one needs privacy and to have privacy one needs private property.  The sociologist and political economist, Franz Oppenheimer (1863-1943), pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth; one being through economic means and the other through political means. To acquire through economic means is to acquire through voluntary exchange and production of wealth. To acquire through political means is to seize goods or services by the use of force or coercion. Achieving goals through political means are necessary predatory and parasitic.

If the government were to take total control of all the factors of production, then it would not be the factories that would be nationalized but the individual. Without property one cannot decide for himself how he would like to employ the product of his efforts. Individuals would be denied self-determination as their goals would be defined by the political elite who hold the monopoly of property.  They would be the ones who decide for what cause it would be used. This central planning would not just mean the death of private enterprise but the death of privacy. There is no reason or barrier that opinions would not be centrally planned while goods and services are. There would be no free flow of ideas if the State owns all the paper, ink, printing presses, television stations, or radio stations. Arguably, there is no free flow of ideas today as the State heavily regulates and licenses the airwaves and increasingly, the internet.

Philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand wrote that freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression, or punitive action by the government-and nothing else. The protection of private property is not simply a law directed towards criminals but the State (if there is a difference).  Private property creates borders which one cannot cross uninvited. To do otherwise, regardless of the intended goals, is to employ political means.

When I along with members of Carleton Students for Liberty created a Free Speech Wall at Carleton University, we made use of our property rights to express free speech. Unfortunately, this Wall was seized and destroyed simply because it challenged the political goals of a militant activist who sought to create an offense-free “Safe Space” on campus. In denying individuals their right to private property, this individual took the task upon himself to become the central planner of opinions through the political means described by Oppenheimer.  He sought to take the property of others to be used for his own desires.

Many well-intended individuals perceive socialism to be the moral superior of free markets as they see private property as selfish and greedy. They are mistaken and should support property rights precisely because it promotes peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.

-Ian CoKehyeng

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