Grotius, and ultimately Epicurus) and declare that privaternpropert)’ is a “natural right” —in other words, a theoretical claimrnderived from a hypothetical state of nature.rnYou see, the “conser’ative” holy men will tell you, once uponrna time long, long ago when dinosaurs walked the earth, menrnand women lived on a free-and-easy basis of equality. Unfortunatel}’,rnsome wicked people took advantage of the situation byrnabusing their neighbors, and the wiser heads managed to persuaderneveryone to sacrifice some part of his natural rights andrnnatural equalit)’ for the sake of peace and justice, hi particular,rnthcv wanted to safeguard their propert)-, and that is why “government”rnor “the state” exists partly, even primarily, to protectrnpropert)’ rights. Natural rights do not, in this tradition, derive citherrnfrom nature or (God forbid!) from the Divine Will. Theyrnexist only as the concluding proposition of a hypothetical syllogismrnof the t)’pc: If unicorns, before zoos were invented, oncernhad a single horn, zoo keepers do not have the right to amputaternthe horn without giving the imicorn a hearing.rnIt shoidd not take clever people such as Marx and Engels tornspot the gaping holes in this argument. As the monarchist SirrnRobert Filmer pointed out before Locke had written anything,rnit would be next to impossible to find total agreement for anyrnsuch social contract, and even if the founders of a societ)’ werernable to come to terms, they could not bind their descendants tornabide bv majoiit)’ ride. Anarchists conclude from this that anyrnindixxlual is free at any time to repudiate government and gornback to the state of nature (“Dogs run free, why not me?”), whilernMarxists have exploded the flimsy historical foundation for allrntraditional social institutions, including private propert)’: If famil’rnand propert)- are social inventions, they are neither divinernnor natural and can be overthrown in the interest of promotingrnthe true human equalih’ that is everyone’s birtiiright.rnIt is easy to sec wh)’ “conservatives” have done such an inadec|rnuate job of defending property from the left. It is precisely thernconservative heroes —the founders of classical liberalism—whorngae die left its best weapon: the historical ftmtasy of naturalrnequality and human rights. So when leftists demand 90 percentrnof a “rich” man’s income in the form of taxes, some libertariansrnand classical liberals on the “right” will argue that all such taxationrnis wrong, but n-iost “conserv-atives” will simply haggle overrnthe rates, because ultimately they do not understand that properh’rn(like the family) is neither a social or hi.storical inventionrnnor an abstract right that depends upon a highly dubious theorrnof rights that few people in the historv’ of the world have everrnaccepted.rnPropert)-, alnrost as much as motherhood ai-id perhaps morernthan fatherhood, is a basic constituent of the hiunan condition.rnMan is born to eat food and procreate and to own thernthings on which eating and procreation depends. Even the ancientrnStoics went so far in theoretically justifying the satisfactionrnof natural necessities. But the naturalness of property is nornmere theorv’. Contrary- to the erroneous reports that Locke (andrnhis predecessors) had read of tribal peoples in America, tiicrc isrnno known socictv’ where distinctions of power and the conceptrnof “nnne and thine” are completeh’ imknown. In the mostrnprin-iitive societies, the tools and weapons a man makes belongrnto him and his; even the great apes show a certain possessivenessrntoward peeidiar or useful things they have found, and humanrnbeings have universal!)’ developed that simple instinct into socialrninstitutions.rnPersonal possessions are one thing, a liberal (on the “right” orrnleft) might say, but the fundamental property rights concern notrnspears and axes but land and houses. Obviously, a tribe thatrnbuilds no permanent homes but follows the buffalo or caribournherd wherever it goes will develop a ver)’ imperfect conceptionrnof real estate and property rights; nonetheless, even migratoryrnand stateless peoples, such as the famous Bushmen of the Kalahari,rnregard hunting grounds and watering holes as their propert)’.rnThey may not exercise an exclusive right to take water orrnhunt game, but they do have privileged access. An alien presentingrna challei-ige to such privileges may be answered with violence.rnIn this sense, the sovereign rights that nations claim over theirrnterritory are merely an extension of the property rights enjoyedrnby family and clan, in much the same way that the concepts ofrnsovereignty and political authority are themselves an outgrowthrnof the primitive family’s power to govern itself and its members.rn”Clans owning land? This is not private property at all!” exclaimrnthe “conservatives,” because “property rights are not heldrnby groups but by individuals.” For the past two or three hundredrnyears, perhaps, and under the Roman Empire, but in thernlength and breadth of human history, landed property is morernlikely to be found in the hands of families, extended kindreds,rnand even tribes. The conservative liberal jurist. Sir Henry SumnerrnMaine, was essentially correct in his great book AncientrnIMW, where he outiined a broad historical transition from status-Jrnto contract. In many early societies, including archaic Athensrnand republican Rome, a man’s farm goes automatically to hisrnheirs, and while he may write a will disposing of various thingsrnhe has made or acquired in the course of a lifetime, he cannotrnalienate the family’s land by willing it to a stranger. Under mostrncircimistances, he may not even defy custom by excluding arnlawful heir or by displaying his partiality to a younger son.rnOur one-sided emphasis on individual property rights mayrnwell turn out to be a weak point in the liberal (includii-ig thern”conservative”) approach. Here in Rockford, we insist on referringrnto “Tom Ditzler’s propert)’,” though he thinks of it as hisrnfamily home, the castle to be defended against the outsidernworld.rnThis was the understanding that most Americans had of theirrnland and houses in the founding era. Land was more than arncommodity to be bought and sold at an agreed-upon price. Itrnwas tiie home place, Ghristopher Lasch’s Haven From a HeartlessrnWorld, the place where the memories, perhaps even therngraves of lost nrembcrs were tended. The demand for anrnamendment protecting propert)’ against search and seizure wasrnnot made by Lockean individualists who wanted to protect thernrights of run-i smugglers or dope smokers. British revenue officersrnwere invading family businesses —shops and houses —inrnsearch of contraband; this was a violation of a fundamentallyrnBritish sense of the home as an inviolable refuge from its enemiesrnin and out of government. Reverence for the family homernis deeply planted in the character of European man, and it is asrnstrongly attested by ai-icicnt Greeks as by our Germanic, Celtic,rnand Slavic ancestors who destroyed classical civilization.rnPropert)- and status, whatever St. Augustine may have believed,rnare not only natural to man but part of the Divine Plan.rnAdam and Eve had a home place: They called it Eden. The onlyrnstate of nature worth talking about is human nature, andrn(apart from the protections offered by the deteriorating Constitution)rnthe only solid basis for property rights is to be found inrnthe laws of nature and of nature’s God.rnAPRIL 2001/11rnrnrn