American Civil Justice

Joseph Broadus
George Mason University

Joseph BroadusJoesph Broadus is the Professor of Law at George Mason University.

Below are excerpts from some of the other speeches delivered at the Center for Constructive Alternatives and Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series seminar, “Between Power and Liberty: Economics and the Law,” on the Hillsdale College campus in March. All the speeches delivered at this seminar will appear in Volume 25 of the College’s Champions of Freedom series, which will be available in November 1997.

There are no democratic societies without the institution of private property. There are, of course, some authoritarian and totalitarian societies that call themselves democracies and that allow some limited measure of freedom in their predominantly statist economies, but they are not genuinely democratic or free. Private property is essential. But even in the United States, where we pride ourselves on our understanding of how the free market works, we don’t really appreciate what private property means or how it is threatened by the growth of government intervention.

You have undoubtedly heard of the old expression, “A man’s home is his castle.” It truly is his domain and his alone. It is a place where (supposedly) others are forbidden to trespass. It not only gives him control over his own life but it constitutes a limit on the power of the state. It gives him the right to say “Mine,” and “No”…

For hundreds of years, only property owners were allowed to vote. Why? Because people without property were presumed easy to dominate. It was also presumed that they did not express their own will; they expressed the will of those individuals or entities upon whom they were dependent…

Properly understood, private property—whether it is in the form of land, wealth, possessions, or ideas—is an extension of the person. It guarantees his freedom to act, to express his will, and to exercise his rights under an equitable system of civil justice.