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Library of Congress, LC-USW361-803 DLC

Property Promotes Freedom

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once wrote: “(T)he dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights. … In fact, a fundamental interdependence exists between the personal right to liberty and the personal right in property. Neither could have meaning without the other.”


America’s Founders created a system of government designed to protect property rights. The Founders were influenced by the 17th century philosopher John Locke, who held that everyone who labored had a natural right to property. Property rights, he wrote, reward effort and reduce conflict. Preserving “lives, liberties, and estates” is “the great and chief end” of government.

Hence, the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights states, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Article 1, Section 17 of the Michigan Constitution asserts, “No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,” while Article 10, Section 2 holds, “Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. ...”