The Property Rights Illusion: City of Lincoln Prohibits Having Roommates

An absolutely essential contribution to America’s founding originated from English philosopher and political theorist, John Locke. Locke’s idea of natural rights and the obligation of government to protect life, liberty, and property cannot be overstated in terms of their influence on the American Revolution and the founding of our nation.

For his time – and most definitely to his country – Locke’s views were thought radical. So much so, that he didn’t dare sign his name to them at the time. One author described them this way:

“He expressed the radical view that government is morally obliged to serve people, namely by protecting life, liberty, and property. He explained the principle of checks and balances to limit government power. He favored representative government and a rule of law. He denounced tyranny. He insisted that when government violates individual rights, people may legitimately rebel.”

Locke was part of what we now refer to as the “Age of Enlightenment” . Though his ideas were tremendously influential in the creation of historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, there is little question that we’ve drifted as a nation in the years since.

One need look no further than a recent news story out of Lincoln, North Dakota to see that some government officials don’t exactly hold the ideal of private property rights as sacred, like Locke and the Founders did.

After posting an ad on Facebook in search of a roommate, Lincoln resident Cassandra Sattler got a phone call from the local police. The reason? To inform her that having a roommate was a violation of city ordinances. No, I’m not joking.

In the city of Lincoln – population 2,406 as of the 2010 Census – there stands city ordinances that place limitations on who can live in homes. It’s found in the “Code of Ordinances of Lincoln” . Feel free to read the 513 pages of draconian rules and regulations, but in a nutshell the city prohibits someone like Ms. Sattler from having a roommate– all in the name of limiting “commercial use of homes”.

Ms. Sattler recently purchased her five room home, but because of this prohibition by the Almighty City Government, she cannot benefit financially from it by allowing others to live with her– unless they’re “family” of course. This is nothing less than protectionism– a means of stifling any type of competition for those who have rentals in another part of the city that would be zoned differently.

Not only is the law a blatant assault on Ms. Sattler’s private property rights, but by its very nature it’s an intrusion on her privacy as well. After all, what business is it of the city who lives in her home? This situation leads to a series of questions…

If Ms. Sattler had chosen a more private means than Facebook of advertising for a roommate, how would the city have known about or even enforced such an ordinance without being terribly intrusive?

Could they obtain a warrant in an attempt to gather evidence of someone other than family living in the home?

How would law enforcement prove others were not family?

Would they forcibly obtain DNA evidence as a means of testing and analysis to prove their case?

How would they prove Ms. Sattler had benefited financially from those living in the home?

Would they seek to obtain private financial statements in an effort to prove their case?

As you can see, it doesn’t take long and the questions get quite intrusive and ridiculous. But that’s the point… the ordinance is not only intrusive and a violation of fundamental rights, but it’s simply ridiculous– to the point that in most cases it would be nearly unenforceable.

Unfortunately, such a case as Ms. Sattler’s is not a surprise to me. Back in June, I wrote an article exposing the State of North Dakota’s training manuals for local tax assessors as saying North Dakotan’s don’t truly own their property . In one of their training manuals it says, “No one actually owns real estate– that is, the physical thing.”

Between having to pay the yearly rent we call “property taxes” and living under these types of draconian rules we know as “zoning ordinances”, private property ownership and private property rights are merely an illusion.

When will it finally be enough for us to demand that we re-establish the proper relationship between government and the people? The residents of Lincoln – and others like them in the state – need to demand their local government officials eliminate such ridiculous ordinances as these. Anything less is un-American.


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About T. Arthur Mason 883 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.