In his interview with New York Magazine, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered some insight into his views and his tenure as mayor of the largest city in the United States. The interview, which seemed like an attempt to mitigate the mounting concerns about de Blasio’s corruption and his constant virtue-signaling, shed some light on one of his biggest pet peeves: private property.
When asked by Chris Smith about his fight to reduce income inequality and where it was hard to make progress, he said the following:
What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property. I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development.
In other words, he slammed the concept of private property in order to pursue the Communistic dream of government planning “according to everyone’s needs.” This quote is attributable to Karl Marx himself, who popularized it in his 1875 essay “Critique of the Gotha Program.” Marx’s entire quote is as follows:
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!
Notice some similarities?
Marx’s umbrage with private property is centered around the belief that it opens the door to exploitation and taking away various opportunities from others who cannot afford to acquire it. The solution, therefore, is to abolish private property and to have the government allot parcels of property according to the abilities and needs of the collective. This deliberately contrasts the Lockean view of private property as being a hallmark of freedom. Locke explores this in Chapter V of “The Second Treatise of Government”:
God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho’ all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man. The fruit, or venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life.
Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.
As Locke eloquently points out, private property is the extension of the individual self. By removing the ability for one to own their own property, it takes away their freedom. This concept of freedom is one of the foundations of the Fifth Amendment‘s Takings Clause as well as its Due Process Clause:
… nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Bill de Blasio’s belief that income inequality cannot be achieved in part due to the existence of private property is a direct assault on one of the fundamental freedoms that the United States of America was founded upon. The Constitution laid out a plan for a government limited in scope whose structure intended to protect the individual liberty to own private property.
Rather than championing policies that create better incentives to increase private property ownership, the Democratic Party and de Blasio, specifically, seem more adamant on wanting to limit the ability for developers and individuals to own private property when it does not suit their political agendas.
In summation, de Blasio appears to have turned full Communist and exposed his true colors.
It is important to note that issues surrounding private property are not solely propagated by the Left. President Trump and his camp have occasionally skewered the concept. During the primaries, Trump expressed a problematic view of eminent domain, and one of the main issues with his notorious “border wall” is whether he would need to impose eminent domain in order to make it a reality.
When push comes to shove, it is incumbent on conservatives to call a spade a spade on issues of private property and to proclaim that in the presence of complicated policy choices, it remains prudent to remain on the side of freedom.