POTOMAC OBSERVER Primacy of Property Washington, D.C. T0 HEAR THE Republicans tell it, Thomas Jefferson never improved on John Locke. Locke’s 18th century philosophical trinity of human rights “life, liberty, and property”was amended by Jefferson to read “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Whereas the English philosopher thought he was guaranteeing his first two with his third, the American polymath knew the three he inscribed upon our consciousness were not only independent of one another, but equally necessary to human freedomfar moreso than land, houses, cattle or businesses. Locke’s attack was on kings who knew no boundaries on their behavior, while Jefferson supported a citizenry whose accomplishments, he hoped, would extend beyond material to psychological well-being. Locke constructed his trinity as a rising staff stepfirst life, then liberty to participate in it, then property to enjoy it. But Jefferson was more of a humanist and less of an absolutist than Locke, so Jefferson’s trinity is not an inclined plane, but a mutually supportive triangle. Thus when you see Texas Sens. Kay tion that might be conflated under an ominously vague description such as “to ensure the full exercise of the right to private property without interference by any public need,” you know they’ve misread the Founding Fathers. Locke, stock and oil barrel. As a freshman Senator, Hutchison is quite cheerfully introducing bills and making speeches handcrafted in the public deception shops at the Republican National Committee. As heretofore noted in this space, with this practice she follows in the fragrant 1947 footsteps of two other accidental, overwhelmed, first-term Republican spear-carriers, namely R.M. Nixon of California and J. McCarthy of Wisconsin, who were used by the RNC to voice Neanderthal opinions that the more respectable wing of the party was perfectly happy to vote for, but not stand behind. Presidentially handicappedthat is, with his already bloated ambition swollen to blinding proportionsGramm is perfectly happy to be mounted on a prancing horse elbowing his way somewhere near the head of the parade that Hutchison is shuffling away somewhere near the end of. So he too James McCarty Yeager edits Minority Business Report at least until the Republicans repeal all affirmative action and disadvantaged business programs. is more than pleased to mouth the nostrums demanded by those who own the Republican party. In defiance of Jefferson, and in fealty to Locke, these panaceas may be summarized in the following terms, suitable for tattooing with jackhammers on the stony foreheads of the editors of the Republican Street Journal and of country-club members in Dallas and Houston: you are what you own; there is no such thing as community \(except for the purposes of suppressing sexually explicit material, imprisoning the violently unfortunate and arming to kill public debt is almost a crime, but private debt, when held or created by corporations, is an evidence of sagacity; all employees both public and private who are not scared to death are loafers; equal rights must prevail only among the white, as long as they do, or could, drive luxury vehicles; ownership is absolute, with no public responsibilities whatsoever attached; government is intended to control, not the suit-wearing classes, but the populace at large. Nowadays the fights between these positions and regular Jeffersonian Americanism are conducted in the area of land use, environmental safety and preservation. But these conflicts’ recent roots in opposition to civil rights in the ’60s, Social Security in the ’30s, and free public education in the ’00s of this century are quite clear. Taxation, Gramm and Hutchison’ s contributors would disagree with Jefferson, is not to be used to benefit the many, but to protect the few. UNDER THE DISGUISE of protecting a few middle class homeowners from the wicked depredations of en vironmental regulations meant to save mere birds, Hutchison has come up with a legislative solution whichwonder of wonders would have the effect of gutting the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. This is called freedom. For the affected property owners, not for anybody else. Enamored of this approach, backbench House Republicans are crawling out from under their rocks on a daily basis not to attack civil rights, or welfare, or infrastructure spending, but to proclaim their undying fealty to unfettered, illimitable, and solipsistic private property rights. What with 1 percent of the U.S. population owning close to 50 percent of the wealth, this is like their having a plural vote based on their net worth, because all those Congresscritters are competing with each other to please that 1 percent, not you or me. The real message of tax reduction is, of course, service reduction to those who can’t afford to pay for it, in order to benefit those who can but won’t. Similarly, the real message of the private property sanctification movementwhether it is called freedom from regulation, or from “legislative takings”was amply encapsulated by Bessie Smith: “Papa may have, and mama may have; but God bless the child that’s got his own.” Hutchison is chief Senate sponsor of only one measure, S. 191, summarized in the Congressional Record Index as “Endangered species: protect private property rights relative to economic losses from critical habitat designations,” co-sponsored by Gramm. She has also co-sponsored S. 22, “Government: preparation of private property taking analyses,” and S. 145, “Real property: provide protection for the Constitutional guarantee of private property rights,” the principal sponsor of which is Gramm. This would all seem pretty unnecessary, given the shrine to property that is erected under existing law and administration. Except she and Gramm apparently like doing jobs that don’t need to be done, as part of their policy of loudly proclaiming that those which do need to be done are, alas, too expensive for the richest nation on earth. After all, another of her co-sponsored bills would name a nuclear aircraft carrier after Ronald Reagan, which would be an act of supererogation equivalent to naming a bank after the Rockefellers. The turgid flow of mean-minded; destructive, and happily-ignorant legislation now besmirching the halls of Congress is only in its early stages, but has already revealed its adhesive nature. As disgusted with “government waste” as the Newt Reicht claims to be, the docile Republican backbenchers under the Lizard’s Speakership have already voted to increase military spending against the enemies we don’t face, while opposing U.S. involvement against genuine viciousness in Haiti and the Balkans. Meanwhile Gramm and Jesse \(The Unspeakably protected, not from world poverty and injustice, but terrorism. But I guess keeping the U.S. well-armed against non-existent threats while refusing to recognize, much less deal with, explosive social inequality is the kind of welfare for the engineering classes that Republicans don’t think of as waste. Probably because they imagine it protects property. -JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER 16 MARCH 10, 1995
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