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Maricopa County Libertarian Party

Your Rights on Public Property

March 20, 2010 - 3:30pm
Nick Coons by Nick Coons

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Should smoking be banned on public property? In certain areas? Within 25 feet of buildings? In parks? Should you be allowed to carry a gun on public property? How about free speech? I find this entire discussion ridiculous, but maybe not for the reasons you might imagine.



Let me start my position by building a framework, so you understand my reasoning. If we were to be discussing the dietary habits of a 700-pound man, which would you suggest that he eat in order to continue his healthy lifestyle; french fries or ice cream? Now that may seem like a ridiculous question, and in fact it is. First off, if someone is 700 pounds, there is no healthy lifestyle to continue. He needs to completely alter what he's doing if he wants to adopt a healthy lifestyle. So that's point #1.

We've made the argument, and quite successfully I believe, that taxation equals theft. This is a moral argument (which means, in short, that it can't be countered with claims like "but we need taxes", because these are arguments from effect). Theft, as we all know, is taking someone's property without their consent. People do not consent to pay taxes, they pay their taxes because they know that there will be violent consequences (arrest, imprisonment, possible bodily injury) if they don't. The fact that someone does something without actually being physically harmed doesn't remove the existence of the threat. Most slaves were never whipped into compliance; they complied because they knew they'd be whipped if they didn't. But the fact that they were not whipped doesn't make slavery any less violent. So taxation is theft, because it is taken from people with the threat of violence, and is thus a violation of rights. That's point #2.

So now, we bring it all together. Public property is paid for and maintained with taxpayer money. Thus, public property only exists because your rights have already been violated. Like the discussion of the healthy habits of a 700-pound man, a valid discussion about what course of action (i.e. allowing smoking vs. banning it) has nothing to do with protecting rights. You cannot protect the rights of someone on property that exists only because their rights have already been violated.

This is why the discussion about smoking on public property seems so complex, where the supposed rights of the smoker are pitted against the supposed rights of the non-smoker. When you ignore the underlying issue, needless complexities are built on top of it. When you start with the wrong premise (that public property is a valid moral concept), you will end up with the wrong conclusion. Worse yet, there will be no possibility of ending up at the right conclusion, which will cause massive amounts of frustration and conflict among those involved.

The answer is quite simple. Public property should not exist. All property should be privately owned. Property owners set the rules on how their property may be used.



Related Content:

Tax-Free Society - Introduction - Nick Coons
McDonald v. Chicago and Second Amendment Incorporation - Austin Raynor
Have We Learned Nothing? - Kimberly Ruff


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