According to Mr. Yglesias, the existence of the state precedes the existence of property. In other words, we have property because the state allows us to have property, and therefore it can be taken by the state at will for reallocation. The #mythofownership tag is a cute addition, too - we get it, Matt; we don't own anything, it all flows from the all powerful state.
The problem is that according to the United States' founding principles, Yglesias couldn't be more wrong if he tried. The principles that ground the American experiment aren't a secret; they lie in the writings of John Locke, the 17th Century political philosopher. Thomas Jefferson cribbed much of the Declaration of Independence directly from Locke's greatest work, Two Treatises of Government, and Jefferson once wrote that Locke was one of the three greatest men who ever lived.
So what did Locke have to say about property and government? In his opinion, private property was one of the natural rights given to man by God Himself, and that government's sole legitimate role was the protection of that which man already owned. From Two Treatises of Government:
“To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
In Common Sense, Thomas Paine echoes these sentiments:
“Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.”It is important to understand that in historical context, when Paine refers to security, he is referring to security in one's possessions, rather than the idea of physical security, which is how the term is commonly understood today.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution also implies that ownership is a fundamental right, and one that government cannot simply violate:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."Yglesias is incorrect: people institute governments in order to protect their property, at least in a free society. What Yglesias is describing, and even advocating, is despotism - a system where the state owns all, and doles it out (and takes it back) at the tyrant sees fit. His position is an ignorant, immoral, and dangerous one.
Unfortunately, it is a position shared by all too many in power.