Property Rights are the Foundation of America’s Economic Freedom
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.
-John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government
The recognition and right of ownership of the output of one’s labor is what sets the United States apart from serfdom, communism, and socialism.
It is often forgotten that property is a concept, not specifically tied to a piece of land. While property, indeed, pertains to the physical plots of land or the houses we live in, it also applies to the sometimes intangible yields of our labor, which is where intellectual property (IP) comes into the fold. Intellectual property recognizes the inherent value for our economy and society for people to exercise the right of ownership of the fruits of their minds.
Two-hundred and twenty-five years ago to this day, our Founding Fathers considered IP such a critical manifestation of American principles that they specifically authorized its protection as a legal “right” in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution by empowering Congress:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
While IP rights are not new, they are more important than ever to the success of the American economy. This is important to grasp today, considering that over the past two hundred years our economic might has transitioned from being based in agriculture to technology.
The introduction of IP rights served as an inflection point for human advancement and technology. No one has mastered this better than the United States of America. Today, 55 million Americans representing nearly half of the private sector employment work in industries rooted in intellectual property. They are responsible for producing over one-third of U.S. GDP and three-quarters of our exports. Suffice to say, the fact that property rights are the foundation of America’s economic freedom is no hyperbole.