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Author(s): Price, Ben G.
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Pub. Date: 2019
Many of today's most serious issues—homelessness, gun violence, fracking, prison privatization, predatory lending, and many more—resist resolution because the “rights of property” undermine the rights of people. Issues that undeniably affect whole communities are determined by the courts to relate primarily to property, contracts, and corporations and are removed from the public sphere and immunized from public governance.
There's a reason for this. Ben Price tells the story of how the Federalists—the more conservative faction of the Founding Fathers—secretly drafted the Constitution as a counterrevolutionary document. It restored to the colonial 1 percent privileges overturned by the revolution, avoiding a popular backlash by bestowing rights on wealth itself, rather than creating a British-style personal aristocracy. These rights of property deprive the majority of their ability to self-govern and weaponize government in ways that let the “minority of the opulent” (in James Madison's phrase) use the Constitution to block local policies that compete with their interests.
Price details often shocking examples of how the supposedly unalienable rights of individuals and communities are blithely disregarded. But he also describes how over 200 communities have drafted their own bills of rights that push back against the primacy of property and how we all can join this struggle to return America to what the revolutionary generation intended.