Saturday, February 29, 2020

Donald Trump’s Strange and Dangerous ‘Absolute Rights’ Idea

Where Trump derived the idea that as president he enjoys absolute rights is unclear. But his chosen phraseology is sticky and evocative. It carries a quasi-juridical ring that belies its conceptual incoherence. Closely examined, his incessant invocation of the phrase evokes the image not of the leader of the free world, but of a freeholder enjoying untrammeled and indefinite possession of his estate. Constitutionally baseless but rhetorically compelling, the whole concept of “absolute rights” is best described as a legal innovation by a real-estate mogul who understands power through the prism of private property rather than public obligation.
As the owner and developer of a sprawling global real-estate empire, Trump, of course, knows a thing or two about property. And in the world of property, the best kind of ownership is “absolute”—or “perfect”—title. Absolute title grants the title holder unequivocal, unchallengeable ownership rights. The property is free and clear, to be enjoyed and used by the owner as he sees fit. It is encumbered by nothing. The owner is beholden to no one.


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