The Outstater

June 3, 2020

OUR MODEST-SIZED CITY in northeast Indiana performed relatively well during the week of rioting. The police and the mayor (a Democrat) did their job trying to protect property and persons. That was true in the midst of the dizzying hypocrisy of crowds elsewhere, in a pandemic, looting oxycontin, electronics, jewelry and Nikes in the name of justice.

One would feel even better about the city’s future had the mayor or the hometown newspaper led a discussion on the dynamics of private property. That is, that the right to own property and have it protected by the ruler, a right hammered out by Anglo-Saxon ancients is in itself the reason for prosperity. It is what sets America above the default setting of the world. Tom Bethel, the author of “The Noblest Triumph,” sums it up well enough:

“The great explanatory hypothesis of history becomes: When property is privatized, and the rule of law is establish, in such a way that all including the rulers themselves are subject tot the same law, economies will prosper and civilization will blossom. And of the different possible configurations of property, only private property can have this desirable effect.”

In Indiana, there are those who credit the surprising growth of Indianapolis (formerly Naptown) beginning in the 1970s not to Unigov but to the fact it was spared the full brunt of race riots that swept the nation. Corporations, it is said, were caught flat-footed, desperate for safe haven for their headquarters. Indianapolis being high on many lists.

So it isn’t as simple as says Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis — that “It’s just bricks and mortar.” Nor does Cassandra Deck-Brown, police chief in Raleigh, N.C., make sense in announcing, “I will not put an officer in harms way to protect the property inside of a building.” That, of course, is her very job.

And it is absurd to say, as did Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times, that “Destroying property which (sic) can be replaced is not violence.” The word is defined in my dictionary as it applies to law: “The unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.”

In any case, Amity Shlaes, a real journalist, buried that statement with a Calvin Coolidge quote, “Ultimately, property rights and personal rights are the same thing.” And nailing down the argument is Heather Mac Donald, author of “Are Cops Racist? and an expert in crime statistics:

“The great philosophers and poets of the West — from Aeschylus and Euripides, to Shakespeare, Hobbes, and the American Founders — understood the chaos and lust for power that lurk beneath civilization. Thanks to the magnificent infrastructure of the rule of law, we now take stability and social trust for granted. We assume that violence, once unleashed in the name of justice, can easily be put back in the bottle. It cannot.”

Those who have lived through a half dozen of these riots know the truth of those words. We have tracked in real time the misfortune of the stricken cities — Philadelphia, Watts, Detroit, Newark, Baltimore, etc. Property owners there, whether or not they were reimbursed by government renewal efforts, fled at the first opportunity and were not replaced by new investors, or only replaced pennies on the dollar.

Racist? Not if you recognize the good sense of putting your black, brown or white money in places where it is least likely to be consumed in a “bonfire of insanity,” to borrow a line from Steve Sailer, a bonfire ignited by the next careless or politically driven media narrative. — Craig Ladwig


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