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February 2014 - Volume 22, Number 1


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Iowans Achieve Prosperity Through Private Property

By Deborah D. Thornton

We do not achieve prosperity through uncontrolled use of “eminent domain” to legally take people’s property from them. The book The Noblest Triumph by Tom Bethell lays out the development of private property rights. He provides convincing evidence that without the ability to own and use private property we would not have economic prosperity. The original wording of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration of Independence was actually “life, liberty, and property.” When “power is decentralized and the rule of law” is clearly stated and enforced, prosperity follows.


Bethell observes that if private property laws come first and individuals can trust equal justice, they take claim to property, and then build their home and business on it, peacefully and in plain sight. This is what has happened in the U.S. In other countries, where there is no equal law or recognition of private property and those running the centralized government have a history of taking as they want, people first claim land by building a wall around it. They then hide inside, defending it as best they can. Finally, they build in secret, hiding their wealth. You do not want anyone, especially anyone with the “government,” to know what you have because they will come and take it by force.


In the U.S. we generally take legal ownership of a piece of property first, and then build what we want without fear of predatory confiscation. Unfortunately, the use of eminent domain to take land for not only “public” but “private” use – as best determined by the central government – is a real risk today. This will eventually destroy our liberty, justice, peace, and prosperity.


Two state Legislators, Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) and Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls), have proposed legislation to address these concerns. One because of the taking of private farmland and homes ostensibly for public water supply, but in reality for a “recreational lake.” The other because a utility wants to put high-energy power lines through farms and homes in eastern Iowa, potentially splitting property and destroying homes. In both cases, the owners of the land must be allowed to control the property they legally purchased and developed. They must have the right to use it as they determine is best, not the utility and not the government. Iowans can expect economic prosperity only though the protection of private property rights. Without these rights we will have less “equality,” and less “justice.” Not more.


IOWA ECONOMIC SCORECARD is our quarterly economic forecast, arriving in February, May, August,
and November. It consists of statistics about and analysis of the Iowa economy.


IOWA ECONOMIC SCORECARD is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a
nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.


Contributions are tax-deductible under sections 501(c)(3) and 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from IOWA ECONOMIC SCORECARD, a quarterly newsletter of Public Interest Institute.” The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry because IDEAS DO MATTER.




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