In today’s America, our laws do little to protect U.S. property owners from either dictators abroad or government bureaucrats at home. How did this come to pass in a country founded on the principle that all men have the inalienable right to life, liberty and property? This lecture will answer this question by tracing the rise and fall of property rights in America. Professor Mossoff will first discuss the intellectual history of the right to property, explaining how the Founders turned seventeenth-century theory into eighteenth-century practice. He then describes how early-twentieth-century Progressives sought to destroy the right to property in order to remove this fundamental obstacle to their implementing the modern regulatory and welfare state. The result has been the disintegration of property rights at both the constitutional level and in basic legal protections.
Ultimately, the lesson to be learned is that a renaissance in the protection of property rights cannot occur solely through political or legal action—such a renaissance as its essential precondition requires the justification of property as a fundamental moral right.