Memorial day traditionally honors those fallen soldiers of war in our country. Since the end of the Civil War, the holiday has been an opportunity for ordinary Americans to set aside some time – officially, without work – to remember those who gave their lives to defend our way of life. And while most wars are fought in defense of “liberty” and “democracy” and “freedom” they are all ultimately struggles for the one item on the planet that makes all of those concepts possible:
Jefferson’s famous statement in the Declaration of Independence – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” was essentially a modernization (in its day) of John Locke’s tripartite formulation of good government. The job of government was to defend, “life, liberty, and estate (or property).” The basis of a just society was one where “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” (See Locke, Second Treatise on Government).
Property has always been the basis of freedom. Kings with land were free; serfs who worked as tenant farmers were not free. Pharoahs commanded fertile fields; slaves were whipped to build pyramids. It is the fundamental basis of all civil rights, for one’s primary right – the right to his life – is a fundamental right to the “property of his own self.” In essence, we “own” ourselves and nobody else does (a king, dictator, legislature, president). All subsequent possessions – real estate, goods, gold, etc – are all forms of property. In essence, freedom is directly correlated to the right to own property. And no greater form or quantity of property exists than real estate (for there is far more land than even gold).
Now, more than two centuries later, citizens who enjoy the greatest freedoms – of self, expression, religion – are those who also possess the greatest amounts of private property. Countries in which the greatest freedoms exist for individuals – America, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, Switzerland, Canada – also rank far higher in property ownership (and lower in overall tax burden) than societies who rank at the lowest levels of freedom: North Korea, Myanmar, Syria and Cuba. Any time you wish to quickly gauge the state of affairs in a country, you can look directly at the state of its real estate marketplace to get an instant analysis.
That’s why REALTORS in America have, perhaps, the second-single most important job in the land, after soldiers, of course. REALTORS are the “homeland” soldiers defending freedom. Every private transaction of property adds another brick in the foundation of freedom in society. Every renter who is helped to own their own home increases his “freedom” from the interference of other men (even kindly landlords). Every transfer of wealth – inheritance, capital gains, rental income – derived from property strengthens our liberty.
Remember, every one of the Founding Fathers was a land owner. And (originally) they were so keen on property as the basis of society that they even considered restricting suffrage to only “freeholders.” So property, best understood, is the bedrock of America.
It is this awesome responsibility that REALTORS must remember every time they do “another transaction” with “some buyers and sellers.” It’s not just another “deal” or “sale” they are playing with – not like another “computer” or “car” or disposable good. Real property transactions are real liberty transactions. And REALTORS have inherited the Founding Fathers’ responsibility to safeguard both. The two are inextricably linked and the repercussions of bad stewardship are far more than a “slumping” market.
Locally and nationally, the Stewards of Liberty should remember to oppose every infringement on property rights – from any local tax to local restrictions on ownership. It’s much more than just “fair housing” that REALTORS need to watch for – it’s infringement on housing by bureaucrats and busybodies – legislators and lawyers – who would whittle away property rights, and with it all other rights. It is why moral outrage at the Kelo case should continue every day and why right-thinking REALTORS should oppose government bailouts of speculators. Whether the danger comes from government or speculators, REALTORS should always be on guard for harm.
Not just to their market. Or their livelihood. Or their clients. But to Liberty.
Who knew being a REALTOR meant so much!
Happy Memorial Day.