The Founding Fathers were well read in the areas of economics, political separation of powers, and the rule of law with an in-depth knowledge of history. Understanding their background may be why W.C. Skousen in “The Five Thousand Year Leap” commented,
The American Founders recognized that the moment government is authorized to start leveling the material possessions of the rich in order to have an ‘equal distribution of goods,’ the government thereafter has the power to deprive ANY of the people of their ‘equal’ rights to enjoy their lives, liberties, and property.
To prevent redistribution of goods from occurring, the Founding Fathers created a limited government with minimal regulations, stressing the importance of the right of private property. They understood it was the individual’s right to acquire and possess property, and that private property and liberty were inseparable. When the government confiscates through illegitimate means private property, the fruit of intellectual or physical labor, it enslaves and denies liberty.
The system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom, both for those who have property and those who do not. Private property divides the means of production among many people acting independently, ensuring that no one person has complete control over everyone. If the means of production were invested in the hands of “society as a whole” or a dictator, whoever exercises the control has complete power over people. The principle of private property for the Founding Fathers was imperative to prevent the slide into socialism, which had been earlier tried in the Plymouth Colony under William Bradford and abandoned as counterproductive to individual freedom and liberty.
To understand the danger socialism presents for people, one needs to know what socialism is. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines socialism as, “any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.”
Ayn Rand said:
Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good. The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights… To deny property rights means to turn men into property owned by the state. Whoever claims the “right” to “redistribute” the wealth produced by others is claiming the “right” to treat human beings as chattel.
Does socialism sound like what the Founding Fathers intended?
Classical socialism seeks social justice, greater equality and security. People can agree that they are important issues. The question is, “How does socialism plan to achieve the goals of social justice, greater equality, and security?” When the individual purposes to be just and treat others equally, he does willingly and from his own resources. What if the government, “to redistribute the wealth,” forces him to act in a way that harms him; does forceful redistribution appear just and right?