The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

Private property as a right

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Debate Round Forfeited
LaL36 has forfeited round #3.
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/22/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,030 times Debate No: 98350
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (0)




Con(me): arguing that private property is not a right
Pro: arguing that private property is a right.

I believe burden of proof lies with pro, to be honest. While it probably seems like a no brainer that property is a right to most of us, none of us has probably questioned it, or wondered why. The reason why the burden of proof lies with pro is because it is an affirmative statement, whereas to say it is not a right is a negation. There needs to be reason why private property is a right, whereas there doesn't need to be reason why it isn't a right, since the default position is that it isn't unless there is a reason why it is a right.

Since I am not using round 1 for debate, pro should not use round 4 for debate in order to keep the number of arguments even. You should agree to waiving it and just say something like "I waive this round as agreed upon." Pro should immediately offer arguments in round 1.


Thank you to con for instigating the debate. I look forward to some thoughtful discussion. I agree to take on the burden of proof as con has proposed. I do, however, slightly disagree with his point about something being a right. I do generally agree with con’s point about an affirmative statement with regards to burden of proof. However, the burden should be on the government to have a proper reason for something to be prohibited or not a right. It is not on the burden of a citizen to say why something is allowed or why they have a right.

Based on my understanding it seems that I am required to fulfill two arguments: Private property is a right and that it ought to be a right. I’ll get right to it.

Private Property as a Right

I will admit that con is correct, at least with me, when he says that private property being a right seems like a no brainer. I additionally agree with con’s point that many people don’t think about it. I believe that many misunderstand it.

Section 1 of the 14th amendment states “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” [1]

I am sure that con is aware of this and probably has an interesting response that I look forward to hearing. But I believe for now that this settles as evidence for at least the existence of the right to private property. This right is not as much of an insight to the citizen as it is a duty of the government. Note that section 1 of the 14th amendment is written with the context of the government. The Constitution has the precise opposite mindset that con outlined. Whereas con believes that for a right to be established the burden is on the citizen to explain why, the Constitution maintains that rights are pre-existing and for them to be taken away the burden is on the government to say why i.e. just compensation.

Property rights, however, are slightly different from the other God given and inalienable rights. John Locke, who had a major influence on the Constitution, points out that this right to property can only be acquired through one’s own personal labor. I believe he phrases it as something along the lines of an “acquired” right. [2]

What this distinction essentially means is that the government does not have an obligation to provide property for its citizens. That responsibility lies with the citizens. It does mean that the government has an obligation to not take it away and I will later get into the reasons why this is important. This type of right is not vastly different than other rights such as the right to bear arms. Here, as well, the government is not required to provide its citizens with arms but the government is obligated to never infringe on the right.

The Function of the Right

One of the primary functions of the constitution was to limit the government’s power and prevent it from becoming tyrannical. Therefore as early as the 2nd amendment it is established that the government cannot take away one’s right to bear arms because this is critical in order to fight if there was such a tyranny. Property rights to a much lower extent accomplishes the same goal along with the rest of the rights mentioned in the constitution.

As mentioned before, this prevents the government from taking away somebody’s already acquired property. Otherwise, it would not be so hard for the government to take somebody’s property and use a common justification which is that it is a “compelling government interest.”

Here government is instituted to protect individuals’ rights to their own private property, again not to provide it. These points are relevant to claims that people make regarding the fictitious right to “affordable housing."

Unfortunately, today the government in many ways is not living up to this responsibility. A prime example of this is rent control. It is true that the government isn’t directly taking away an owner’s private property but they are to a certain degree declaring some ownership over it if they are determining the prices. The government is stepping out of its boundaries previously defined when they are often decreasing the value of an owner’s property without just compensation. As proven, the government’s responsibility is to secure individual property rights, not violate them.

Good luck and I look forward to your response.




Debate Round No. 1


Does the 14th amendment guarantee private property as a right?
You know what is interesting about the 14th amendment, that I just noticed now? It doesn't guarantee private ownership of property specifically, it just states that "...nor shall any state deprive any person". Technically, it is not denying or depriving people the right to property by making it a law that all privately-owned businesses have to be transitioned into cooperatives(which are democratically-controlled businesses owned communally by the workers. For all intents and purposes, they are essentially a socialist business model) since technically the person still owns that property, just they are sharing it with their workers.

So, the 14th amendment does seem to lack defining specifically that private property is a right, it just states property in general, and not specificaly private property. If a state were to implement socialism, it thus, doesn't violate this amendment technically. Though, I don't claim to be an authority on interpreting the United States constitution, that is, of course, up to the supreme court, but I don't think the supreme court has ever ruled that the 14th amendment protects private property specifically. But, it seems like this interpretation may not be incorrect. I am not aware of any supreme court case that specifically says the 14th amendment protects private property, and that forcing property to be communally owned would be in violation of the amendment. Considering how unpopular socialism is in the Uniated States, I doubt this question have ever been raised to the supreme court. If my opponent knows such a supreme court case, I invite them to present it.

An "acquired" right
I completely agree that property is an acquired right, however, I imagine where we would disagree is with who should own the property? Technically workers are working very hard, so should not the property of a business be communally owned by the workers of that company instead of a single or a few business owner(s)? One could argue that the business owner is denying the workers' rights to have property. Seeing as 32.6% of Americans are not property owners[1] and white people own 98% of all available property in the USA[2] people are being denied the ability to achieve property ownership. John Locke once said:

"Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being by him removed from the common state nature placed it, it hath by his labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others." [3]

First, I'd like to point out again, that these words are not specific enough to indicate that a person is entitled to own property all on their own, and not communally. Perhaps my opponent can point out a specific instance where John Locke specifies that property is something a single individual needs to own(privately) rather than communally with others. What I'd like to point out next is the last sentence, specifically this part: " Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others."

In America, there is clearly not enough property out there for people to have, so many are being denied their right to have property from the fruits of their labors because all of the property is owned already, either by the government(which I also view as repulsive) or by other people. I believe the best way to solve this issue is to transition into a society that has communal property. There is not enough land out there for all of us to have some, so in order for people to be compensated properly for their work, there needs to be a forced redistribution of property for everyone to own some who works.

So, depending on how you see it, then the government may have a responsibility to make sure that those who work are properly compensated and given the business as communal property. They are working for it after all, and who says the business owner worked harder for it than his or her workers? I would guess that most cases, a business owner needed to get a bank loan to start their business or inherited money for it, so they clearly didn't work for that money There may be a few business owners out there who did work for years, and finally bought a business after years of work, but I believe they are in the minority. I tried looking up statistics on this to see how many business owners actually worked up over the years money to buy or start a business, but my search turned up no results. Once again, I would ask my opponent to see if they can help on the matter. So, since property is an acquired right based on the fruits of our labors, why should someone who didn't work for control of that business, have control of that business?

I might be getting off-topic here, so I'll move on.

Agreement with opponent:
I also view it as repulsive for the government to be determining the prices of property(in addiiton to how much land the government owns), but this doesn't seem to be something that proves private property is a right.

I believe my argument is complete and I have adequately raised doubt that specifically, privately-owned property is a right as opposed to communally-owned property. Keep in mind, we are debating on private property as a right, and not property in general as a right. I believe property in general is a right, but I don't believe private property is.

[3] John Locke, Second Treatise on government


Thank you for your response

Private Property as a Right

Just to recap last round I was making pretty much two points and I would like to push one a little further. I pointed out the government’s obligation to not take away a citizen’s property. What I am confused about is that con is trying to make some sort of distinction between private property and property. The only other option is public property and the 14th amendment is clearly not referring to that. Con as the instigator did not clearly define the term so I will do so. “Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities” [1].

The founders were trying to prevent government intervention for citizens’ private property. How can they prevent government intervention from something owned by the government?

I also pointed out a major misunderstanding I believe con has of how exactly rights work. I plan to elaborate during this round.

5th Amendment specifically guarantees private property

I did not do specific research in the first round because as you said I consider private property being a right as a no brainer. After doing short research I found that the 5th amendment specifically refers to private property. Even if con’s proposed distinction between private property and property stands, this evidence demonstrates that private property is a right. “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” [2].

Additionally, con has conceded to my point regarding property being an “acquired” right so I see no reason why at this point the discussion could not end here.

Nevertheless, I will move on to address some of my opponents points for the sake of discussion.

An “acquired” Right

Again, con agrees on the point that property is a required right but still is yet to make the distinction. I already proved private property is explicitly mentioned as a right. But con seems to be unable to apply this logic because con makes claims that demonstrates misunderstanding of this point.

Con makes an argument that workers are somehow prevented from their right to property. This is flawed logic. The workers are entered in a consensual bargain with the owner of the property. If con agrees that property is an acquired right, then the numbers he sourced about how many people own property is utterly irrelevant. Once again, an acquired right means that nobody is required to provide the property to an individual all it means is that the government cannot take away a citizen’s property. Con additionally seems to be inconsistent. Con is trying to make a claim that blacks are being prevented from owning private property but is also claiming that it is not a right. If it is not a right it shouldn’t matter per the con position.

Con is making an improper conclusion from the data of his source. A disparity in statistics is not always conclusive. There are a ton of statistical barriers and variables. This is in no way evidence of any sort of discrimination particularly with regards to government practices which is really the focus of this debate.

Con brings up John Locke and it is clear even from the statements pro brings up that John Locke is clearly referring to private property. Con claims: “First, I'd like to point out again, that these words are not specific enough to indicate that a person is entitled to own property all on their own, and not communally.”

I beg to differ con. Con additionally quoted: “Joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property… that excludes the common right of other Men.”

This is clearly not referring to public property. I do not see how John Locke can be any clearer. Perhaps I will provide more evidence in the following rounds

The rest of con’s argument once again show a misunderstanding of the acquired right piece of the argument. How can the government or anyone deny an acquired right? I thought we agreed that nobody is required to provide property. Even if your points regarding a scarcity of property stand, it doesn’t hold weight for this discussion. See again my arguments about the function of the right. To reiterate it is pretty much that the government cannot take away one’s already acquired right.

Con’s misunderstanding of rights

Con’s whole premise demonstrates a misunderstanding of rights. I have already proved the constitution explicitly mentions a right to private property. But even if con thinks it does not, that is not how our rights in America work. Rights are not exclusive. The 10th amendment clearly points this out [3]. The constitution does not mention the right to sex, for example, but it is still a right.

I do not currently have time to address con’s other points in detail which con correctly points out are off topic. I will just briefly say the role of government is not to implement cosmic justice and ensure that everyone has the same or “fair” outcome. Government’s role is to protect your rights. Your personal success or endeavors are your personal responsibilities.

I look forward to your response.





Debate Round No. 2


Pro didn't provide the full definition of private property from their source, which is important for this debate.
"Private Property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which is owned by a state entity; and from collective (or cooperative) property, which is owned by a group of non-governmental entities."

What I'm arguing for is that making everything into collective property would not be a violation of any right guaranteed by the United States, as there is nothing specifically guaranteeing a right to be the sole owner of property.

My opponent didn't offer any supreme court ruling or evidence that the 14th or 5th amendments guarantee specifically private property as a right. It says only property, whether it is collectively-owned or privately-owned property is not clear. So, my previous point still stands. The quote from the amendment he offered doesn't specify private property.

As for the distinction between property and private property, what I was getting at before was that something could be owned by several individuals, such as workers, this is cooperative/collective property. Workers could own a business for example, instead of a single individual. This would make more property available for everyone since there is only so much property. Pro needs to offer evidence that private property, and not property in general, is a right. If it's the latter, then there is no problem with making property owned by a group of people, instead of a single individual. To make this simpler to understand: pro needs to show that it is a violation of rights for the government to make someone share property with their workers. The person still gets to own the property, they are just no longer the sole owner of it. Pro needs to prove that people have a right to sole ownership of property specifically.

When I used the statistics about who owns property, I was trying to point out that there is no more property to own because people horde property, which would go against Locke's idea, which I will point out next.

My opponent seemed to have missed a very key point, when I quoted " Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others" from John Locke. In other words, property is no longer a right if there is not enough for everyone to be able to acquire through work. There is clearly not enough for everyone to have through work, since many working Americans(as pointed out before) do not own property.

When I said I agree with that property is an acquired right, I mean property in general. Please don't add words to what I said. I never stated that private property was an acquired right, so I didn't agree with pro's position, that is why we are still having this debate. I didn't concede or anything like that. Pro still needs to show that private property specifically is a right.

As for the 10th amendment, it doesn't guarantee just anything as a right, that is determined by the supreme court. For example, healthcare hasn't been ruled as a right, however in many countries it is a right. So, claiming that the 10th amendment would imply that specifically private property is a right needs evidence, such as a supreme court ruling saying that the 10th amendment makes private property specifically a right, or that the 14th or 5th amendments do.

I contest pro's claim that the constitution explicitly says private property as a right. It would explicitly say "private property" but nowhere in the constitution is private right in front of property. Again, it only says property. That could mean collective property or it could mean private property. As long as one of those two exist, technically, it is not a violation of that amendment.

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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Capitalistslave 2 years ago
That's ok, we could do this debate over again if you want.
Posted by LaL36 2 years ago
Oh no I am sorry for forfeiting the round. I couldn't post before and today was the Sabbath.
Posted by dr.jimmythefish 2 years ago
There's a process by which the government can take your land no questions asked. However they still pat for it.
Posted by Capitalistslave 2 years ago
Sorry that it's taken so long for me to make an argument. I am typing one up now(well, as soon as I'm done typing this message that is). I've been busy given that it's so close to Christmas and I had work today as well.
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