PERSPECTIVErnThe Conservative War on Propertyrnby Thomas FlemingrnPerhaps it is a delusion, like snow blindness, caused by therntons of dirty snow shoved into my driveway by the cityrnplows and the sun’s annual disappearing act that drives evenrnnon-Scandinavians into melancholy and occasional fits ofrnberserking frenzy, but I am beginning to be persuaded by ourrnChicago friend Tom Roeser that Rockford really is a constitutionalrnlaboratory, where every level of American government isrnrunning dirty experiments on their subjects.rnThe rats, as you may imagine, are beginning to tire. If it is notrnjudges seizing power, or a city government sucking up to publicrncontractors, it is county-board members working overtime to rewardrntheir friends in the real-estate development communit)’.rnSeveral recent cases of eminent domain, particularly the “cjuickrntake” confiscation of much of Tom and Jan Ditzler’s propertyrnfor a road designed to assist development (an outrage chronicledrnby Scott P. Richert in this issue) have made this frozenrnwasteland a front line in the last battles over American propert}’rnrights.rnWhen government seizes a man’s property, the victim andrnhis friends are generally outraged. The rest of us, reading of therncase in the newspaper, are apt to shake our heads between sipsrnof coffee and mutter, “too bad,” or “he could probably havernhandled this better,” or even “the county needs that road.” Itrnhardly ever occurs to any of us that, in freely exercising theirrnpowers of eminent domain, governments are merely pushing tornthe limit the powers of confiscation that are implied by theirrnpower to tax property and income. “The power to tax,” as JohnrnMarshall put it memorably, “is the power to destroy.” A peoplernthat allows half its income to be seized annually for taxes withoutrnanything to show for the money except more government isrnin no position to protest if some portion of the other half of theirrnincome is taken with (albeit often inadequate) compensation.rnIn a regime of high taxes, it is clear, Raoul Berger’s famousrnreference to propert)’ as the last human right stands in need ofrnsome qualification. Saddled with taxes and insurance paymentsrnand owing at least half of the value of their property to thernreal owner, the mortgage-holding bank, American homeownersrnhave only the most tenuous grasp on their little pink houses.rnLeftists, who brag about defending the common man, do notrnblink their eyes when the common man’s property is taken fromrnhim. After all, property is theft, in Proudhon’s words, and it developedrn(along with the family and social distinctions) as a corruptionrnand deformation of an original state of equality. This isrnthe burden of Engels’ great work on The Origin of the Family,rnPrivate Property, and the State; and, one way or another, it underliesrnmost left-liberal policies regarding families, taxation, andrnthe welfare state. Men and women were once free and equal,rnnow they are not—which is too bad—because patriarchal (European)rnmale capitalists seized power and made themselves dictators.rnIt is an effective—though false—argument, and if it did notrnlead to the brutal inefi^iciencies of Marxist (and, increasingly,rnsemi-Marxist) states, the theor)’ of natural equality woidd probablyrnbe universally accepted instead of being confined, at leastrnin its most radical form, to ftie academic ghetto that has beenrncreated to house the simpleminded and the inexperienced andrnto keep them away from really important things, like fast-foodrnfranchises.rnApart from whining about the evils of communism, so-calledrn”conservatives” do not seem to know how to defend privaternpropert}’. Almost inevitably, they turn to the highly speculativerntheories of John Locke and his predecessors (Hobbes, Selden,rnlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn