According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, there are 16 countries that do a better job of protecting private property rights than the United States.
A dismal international ranking of 17 in protecting private property rights should serve as a wake-up call to Americans concerned about individual freedom and liberty. It is impossible for a people to remain free without respect for the rule of law and protection of private property rights.
The protection of private property and respect for the rule of law are fundamental constitutional principles, but these bedrock principles are being eroded by the actions of government officials at local, state and federal levels. The actions of the federal government in running roughshod over the legal rights of secured debtors in the Chrysler and General Motors bankruptcies in order to reward politically favored unions did serious damage to the rule of law and the protection of private property. When state environmental regulators place unreasonable restrictions on the use of private property to protect mudpuddles or local government officials severely restrict the use of private property by citing "smart growth," Americans become less free.
Although Michigan cannot alone affect the country's poor international standing on protection of property rights, lawmakers in the state should follow the lead of other states and enact statutory changes to protect private property rights. Ohio has enacted a constitutional protection of private water rights, and Arizona and Oregon have put restrictions on regulatory takings of private property. Michigan officials need to make private property protection a priority to stem the gradual but relentless erosion of property rights.
The original version of this story was posted online on Aug. 5, 2010.