On one particularly cold day in Ottawa with snow falling and heaters at full capacity, I gave a talk to a group of Canadian academics and policy analysts on Australian views of property rights, referring to a film called The Castle
. To my surprise, not only did the audience know about the film, but some legal academics had shown it in their classrooms. I thought our accent and slang would be too challenging. Upon further questioning, it became apparent that the ideas and values had a deeper resonance.
is a story about property rights. Phrases such as ‘it’s going straight to the pool room’ may result in a smile but should not diminish the core theme of the movie. The defence against the appropriation of private property with phrases such as: “a man’s home is his castle”, “on just terms” and reference to the ‘vibe’ of the constitution had comedic value as well as cultural relevance. While the sentiment of a private home being sacred and requiring protection dates to Roman times, the term in its modern usage can be traced back to Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.
Property rights extend beyond attachment to private homes. Secure property rights are an important prerequisite for a functioning market-based economy. Remove or diminish property rights and the quality of life declines and progress slows. Economic exchange is dependent on the clear title of chattels or land as well as easy, efficient and defendable transfer. Blockchain and other crypto-currencies are popular as they make title (in financial terms; a ledger) a public, permanent record of transfers or transactions.
In working on property rights, I have come to the realisation that Mannkal’s Western Civilisation conference on 24th November; support for students attending the Samuel Griffith Conference; and seminars on crypto-currencies all have a common thread. Having the ability to buy and sell property as well as defend a house against arbitrary confiscation is a key requirement to cheaply and efficiently accessing capital. This common law heritage, which enabled transaction of property is wonderfully described by Alan Macfarlane in The Origins of English Individualism
As it turns out, Canadians, like Australians, share the benefit of inheriting British common law and ideas about property rights. It is a critical component of the success of our economic system, yet it is constantly under threat and must be defended.
Yours in liberty,