Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America

June 7, 2006 • News Releases

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A new book published by the Cato Institute shows why property rights are the basis of a free society. In Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America, Timothy Sandefur, a staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, explains how property rights are protected in the U.S. Constitution and why they are essential.

For example, after the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London decision to expand the use of eminent domain to include private use, eight states have moved to either prohibit or restrict the use of eminent domain, and currently, thirty state legislators are considering limits. 

“America’s Founding Fathers well understood the centrality of property rights for any stable, successful, virtuous society,” writes Sandefur. “[John] Locke described individual rights as all deriving from a common principle: the exclusive right to own and to use our selves. Locke saw property as the comprehensive term for all rights.”

Through a combination of real‐​life stories and solid legal analysis, Sandefur also critically examines how courts and legislatures today have greatly diminished property rights. 

“Modern political leaders have come to ignore the lessons the Founders taught,” the author argues. “Government at every level infringes on private property rights with regulations that take away [properties and] transfer them to people bureaucrats believe are better suited to use them.”

Sandefur then lays out an agenda for protecting this most important of all human rights in the aftermath of Kelo, concluding “[a] nation that does not recognize property rights is ultimately beyond redemption. Only by recognizing that there is something necessary about property — something innately, inextinguishably human — can we restore the American Constitution, and the American nation, to its proper order.”

Chip Mellor, President of the Institute for Justice, says: “This timely and compelling book will greatly interest anyone seeking a better understanding of the state of property rights in America today. Concerned citizens and activists will find resources and inspiration in each chapter.”

About the Author
Timothy Sandefur is a staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending property rights and economic liberty. Sandefur has written extensively on eminent domain, including articles for the Washington Times, National Review Online, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He lives in Rescue, California.

About the Book

Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America
by Timothy Sandefur
$19.95 hardback; 132 pages
ISBN: 1–930865-97-X
Publication date: October 2006