Are we free to think? In a literal sense, yes. No matter what our circumstances, we have the power to choose our thoughts. Practically, though, our environment makes it either harder or easier to think as we wish. Freedom to think means something quite different in China, where access to news is strictly controlled, than it does in the US where, at least for now, we enjoy free access to news.
Tyrants cannot literally control thought, but they can control most tangible manifestations of it. It means little to say that we are free to think when we cannot share our thoughts with others. It means little to say that we are free to think when we are not allowed to build the invention we have created in our minds. It means little to say that we are free to think when a huge chunk of our income is confiscated through taxation to fund things we detest.
In order to be meaningful, freedom must include the acts that make our thoughts a material reality. Property rights are the mechanism by which we do so. They are also the area in which we citizens have been most abused and least vigilant. Weakened property rights are destroying our very means of living as humans.
Few people these days are serious communists–those who believe that “property is theft.” Better that there were. At least we could deal with their errors directly. Instead, we have a mishmash of laws governing the use of property that choke and stifle productive use of one’s possessions. No one needs to be a communist today–our own government has found a way to make it so without admitting it outright.
With the Kelo decision, any pretense that land is to the primary benefit of the owner disappeared. The High Court held that land may rightfully be stripped from one and sold to another in the name of “economic development.” A city can choose whether your property would serve the community better in the hands of another private owner.
In this reawakening of the spirit of liberty in America, let us not forget that thinking and speaking are easily recognized as fundamental human rights, but property has become a neglected stepchild. We must not let our victory be thin as air, applying only to thoughts and words. We are not ghosts, but flesh and blood, requiring control over that which sustains us. Let us claim our right to the tangible as well as the intangible. Let us control and create to the benefit of ourselves and the people with whom we trade. Let our homes yet again be our castles and our abilities be our currency. Let us take this raw earth and build a world according to the vision of the capable, not the petty rules of the inept.