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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 8:05 pm | Fair 54º


Trent Benedetti: Should the American System Change?

As Americans, we enjoy a standard of living about which most of the world’s people fantasize. Americans are limited only by our ability to dream and our willingness to work hard making our dreams come true.

Each of us has God-given talents that make us unique and which help us frame the life choices we make. As Americans, we are free to live as we choose and to own what we deem necessary to pursue our choices.

In fact, philosopher John Locke believed securing for everyone life, liberty and property was the purpose of government. Locke’s view differed from the view of another well-known although considerably less principled philosopher, Niccolò  Machiavelli.

For Machiavelli, the purpose of government was nothing but the acquisition, retention and expansion of power. For him, the end justified the means and therefore, he advocated doing whatever was necessary to achieve the desired end.

America’s Founding Fathers looked to Locke. His thoughts on social contract — the legitimacy of the state’s authority over the individual — influenced the writings of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other men who risked their very lives in pursuit of the ideals upon which our nation was founded.

Locke’s social contract was based upon the voluntary but conditional transfer of rights from the people to the government for the purpose of securing life, liberty and property for all. He viewed government as a trustee with delegated powers to be used only in service to the people.

Locke believed freedom of thought, speech and worship were inviolate and government had a duty to protect them. Similarly, he believed government should protect an individual’s private property.

From the beginning, property rights have been recognized in the United States as foundational to a free society. Our second president, John Adams, affirmed “Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty.” The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution prohibits confiscation of private property “without due process of law.”

Private property is integral to our American system. At the same time, none of us can exercise property rights in a manner that infringes upon others’ rights. We have a very well developed body of laws, rules and regulations to prevent inappropriate intrusion by one upon another.

For this purpose, we have a plethora of bodies, boards, commissions, councils and departments. They develop and revise land use plans; manage and monitor fresh water resources; observe and enforce air quality standards; guard against threats to public health and safety; and the list goes on.

In California, private property rights are regulated comprehensively. Some think they are over-regulated, although no responsible person advocates for doing away with all regulation.

We do, however, have some who want further limitations on property rights, including some who would abolish them outright. With increasing regularity, those who want to limit or abolish private property openly embrace the views of Karl Marx.

Marx advocated for the abolition of private property in The Communist Manifesto, a book he co-authored.

Those seeking to change our system embrace greater limitations on private property because ending private ownership is critical to the system change they seek.

Unfortunately, we have elected representatives who align themselves politically with those who would change our system. It’s fair to wonder if they actually embrace Marxist philosophy or are nothing more than loathsome politicians who, like Machiavelli, are willing to say or do anything to keep or gain elected office for the intoxicating illusion of power it provides to them. Either way, we deserve better.

Perhaps we should change those who represent us but not the American system. It’s the envy of the world.  

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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