America – Land of the “You-Shoulds”

America is the land of the free, home of the brave. Well, it used to be, anyway. Now it’s the home of the “You-Shoulds.” We are all experts at managing our neighbor’s property. You know we all do it. We tell our neighbor, “You should clean up your yard. You should get rid of that old car out back. Never mind that it’s an Edsel worth more than all three of my new SUVs.” The negative version is even more popular, “You should quit smoking and eating fat and sugar and carbohydrates and alcohol and …” well, you get the idea. “You shouldn’t sell your wooded property that I love to look at to developers. Never mind that you need the money to pay the nursing home.” To the neighbor with five acres zoned residential/agricultural we say, “You shouldn’t have those four Chihuahuas and two cats in your house. You should only have two Rottweilers and a Pit Bull like I have here on my rented quarter of an acre.”

Of course, we don’t like being too confrontational so we hire most of our You-Shoulding done for us. Since all those government bureaucrats weren’t very busy, we decided they could help out with the You-Shoulds. Gigantic Department of Micromanagement has hundreds of employees to promulgate and enforce thousands of pages of you-shalls and you-won’ts which are You-Should’s weight-lifter cousins. We form homeowners’ associations so that we can have a committee to tell our neighbor, “You should paint your house one of these three pukey shades of brown. And furthermore, you really should take down those Christmas lights; it’s the second of January already.”

life-liberty-propertySomehow we have evolved from can-do, take-charge frontiersmen to lazy wimps that expect someone else to do all the work. Even the most motivated activists (the ones that show up at public meetings to bitch) are a bunch of You-Shoulders. They will tell everyone in the room that, “You should (fill in the blank).” When asked to meet next Tuesday for a work party to (fill in the blank), they suddenly find that their calendar is full because that is the night of their favorite reality show on the boob tube. These activist You-Shoulders, however, are balls-of-fire compared to the thousands of their friends that don’t even know that (fill in the blank) needs to be done and wouldn’t care even if they knew. They are too busy painting their house a color approved by the You-Shoulds and mowing a quarter of an inch off their lawn.

Back in the old days we had a government-enforced right to use our property, both real and personal, however we wished, along with the responsibility that we didn’t hurt someone else or their property. But we traded that right and responsibility away so that government would have time to force our neighbors to do whatever we want with their property. We eliminated the person most likely to make wise decisions about our property, us, from the decision-making process and placed a half-dozen clueless central planners into the management position. It is the ultimate You-Should. We no longer have to be responsible for the uses of our property since it is controlled by others. In order to do what we want with our property we just convince a few politicians that our use feels good or helps the environment somehow and they can make it a law, even if it harms others. After all, we are no longer responsible. As long as what we want to do is supported by 51% of the 50% that vote we can do anything we want and force the other 74% to do it also, even if it damages their property.

propertyrightsThe founders of our country and of our states anticipated all this happening, of course. In order to ensure that we would remember that the right and proper role of government is to protect property, not damage property, they wrote some simple rules which say that the government has to pay for property damages caused by the machinations of the 51% of the 50% who vote and their hired bureaucrats. They even set up supreme courts to enforce the rules. The problem, unfortunately, is that someone forgot to tell the judges how it is supposed to work. Judges at all levels keep getting wrapped around the axle while pretending that the public good as defined by the 51% of the 50% who vote is more important than their original job of protecting everyone’s property rights.

That’s why I helped found Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights. We intend to show 4% of the 50% who don’t vote that they can join with us, making us the 51% majority, and put everything back the way it was intended to work. It only takes electing a couple of new home-schooled judges that can read the plain English of the applicable constitutions and understand the importance of their property rights guarantees. Even easier would be to de-program 2% of the You-Shoulders and change them back into the can-do, take-charge frontiersmen they once were.

You should (boy that’s a tough habit to break) join us. We need a can-do, take-charge frontiersman with experience leading 12-step programs so that we can all kick the You-Should habit and get back to managing our own property. (Yeah, I know, you gotta mow the lawn.)

But, now that you are an enlightened You-Should, at least you can metamorphose into the next stage of development – Free Rider. Free Riders understand that, in order to paint their house some color other than calf-scour brown, some action will need to be taken. They assume that if they just keep mowing their lawn, some other former You-Shoulds will eventually band together, metamorphose into Free Citizens, and put a stop to the Home Owners’ Committee for Putrid House Colors (HOCPHC). Those Free Riders will have recouped one of their long-lost civil rights to use their property as they see fit and will not have angered a single one of their You-Should neighbors – unlike the Johnsons next door who actually devoted time and effort to bringing down the HOCPHC and are enjoying life managing their own property as responsible land owners and Free Citizens.


The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Rodney McFarland

Founder and past president of Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights which currently has chapters in Washington and California. Rodney grew up babysitting 150 head of Black Angus cows on 400 acres in South Dakota. He studied Wildlife and Fisheries Management at South Dakota State University and Engineering at the University of Alaska but spent most of his life as a computer programmer in the Seattle area. He is currently semi-retired in Albuquerque and working on a series of novels highlighting the downside of socialism.

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