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Fourth Amendment Most Important Parts


The fourth amendment guarantees the rights of American citizens to enjoy their property without any disturbance by the state unless there is probable cause or a warrant to search a premise. The fourth amendment is part of the United States (US) Bill of rights and it was developed as a result of increased cases of the abuse of the writ of assistance, propagated by the government. Moreover, the need to create the fourth amendment was also caused by the abuse of the search warrant by state officers especially during the period of the American Revolution. The search and arrest of individuals within their premises are therefore limited in scope based on the facts supplied to a court that issues such orders.

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The fourth amendment came to life as a result of a Supreme Court ruling made in 1967 pitting Katz vs. the United States government where it was ruled that, all states will comply with the fourth amendment, based on a clause on the fourth amendment observing due course when undertaking state procedures relating to private property. However, in the same ruling, the Supreme Court also declared that, in cases where the searched party did not expect a significant degree of privacy, the fourth amendment did not apply. The Supreme Court ruling also declared that not all occasions where a search warrant was given overstepped the fourth amendment. On the contrary, the court ruled that some search warrants were in contravention of the fourth amendment. Collectively, the fourth amendment was stipulated as:

“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 on probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”.

The history of the fourth amendment and its definition withstanding, this study establishes that the protection of the right to property was fundamental to those who wrote the bill of rights.

Bill of Rights

The US bill of rights defines the ten basic amendments made to the US constitution to guarantee Americans some of their basic rights. The US bill of rights is dynamic in that, it guarantees various rights of the American people, stretching from “protecting the natural rights of liberty and property including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, free assembly, and free association, as well as the right to keep and bear arms”. In the context of this study, we see that the right to own property surfaces as a basic right in the US bill of rights but it is also important to acknowledge that, the US bill of rights defines the limitations of the state as infringing on the rights of American citizens.

The power of the bill of rights cannot be overlooked in the enforcement of laws in America because the bill of rights guarantees rights which are not specified in the constitution or rights which are not sufficiently given to the citizens by federal law. In the past, the rights stipulated in the bill of rights were only limited to the operations of the federal government but when the fourth amendment came into effect; such rights were stretched to individual states. From this understanding, we, therefore, see that the bill of rights is one basic component of the American constitution and collectively, it represents fundamental facets of American liberty and the culture representing the American people.

Market Existence

It is a widely known fact that most economies around the globe and indeed in America, cannot function if the market is not functioning effectively. The proper functioning of the market guarantees livelihoods and the jobs of many people within a population. From this analysis, it is therefore correct to note that the market sustains the livelihood of the people (and their standard of living as well) because sound economies, or efficiently performing markets guarantee high wages and consequently high standards of living. However, for the market to operate efficiently, people need to be assured that, their property rights are properly enforced and protected by the state.

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Without property rights, there is a minimal chance that people will be motivated to invest in a given economy or market because of the risk associated with looting and stealing. On the contrary, if people are guaranteed their property rights, many people would be motivated by the incentive to invest their capital for more returns and the economy will flourish as a result because investors will be sure that, their hard-earned money is protected by the state. Consequentially, people are likely to benefit from increased employment opportunities, better service delivery, improved infrastructure, better health services, education services, and other social amenities. From this relationship, we see that the safeguard of people’s livelihoods and basic rights (such as education, health, and the likes) is subject to the protection of the right to property. Posner affirms that “Without investment, and with the need to divert more scarce resources to protection, economic growth inevitably falters. Thus, thievery and corruption lie at the heart of the lack of economic development in many countries”.

For instance, in the Gaza strip, the conflict has characterized the region and there is almost no protection of property rights. As a result, chances of investment are very minimal as was evidenced by the recent looting of irrigation hoses, greenhouse gas equipment, water pumps, plastic sheeting, and the likes from the Gaza strip; thereby significantly denting the efforts made by donors (including a personal contribution from a former World Bank president) to reconstruct the Gaza strip. Investors had pumped in more than $14 million dollars in buying greenhouse equipment from Israeli settlers on the Gaza strip and handed them over to Palestinian authorities but the investors’ money was wasted because the equipment bought was extensively looted while the police stood by, helplessly, and sometimes helping the looters to steal the equipment. Currently, the Gaza strip is in a deplorable state because of the lack of enforcement of property rights and the state of humans living in the area is also nothing to write home about. This case only adds to the increased need for the protection of property rights as a fundamental human right.

Feudal Tyranny

When the American constitution was being formed, there was increased concern among the founding fathers of creating a tyranny-form of government where a lot of power was being wielded by the federal government. From this concern, the founding fathers tried to limit the control of the federal government to America’s foreign relations with other states and decision-making during times of war. However, limitations were made when cases regarding the general welfare of American citizens and interstate commerce, are in question. With regards to the general welfare of citizens, the law was developed in a way that people’s rights to life, liberty, and opportunity were exercised in a way that the federal government did not have excessive control over the affairs of the citizens.

This situation creates a scenario where the control of the federal government was highly feared as is affirmed by Coffman who notes that “When all governmentshall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated. Often when excessive control of government is exercised, the state exercises its right on the citizen’s property. The right of property is normally vital in this analysis because it is widely known that, when a state controls the right to property, it has control over the natural resources of the state, including people’s right to own land, have access to water, and such like factors. If people are unable to own property or safeguard their rights to own property, they are likely to have the opportunity to practice agriculture, have a business, or even build a home. In other words, they will be at the mercy of those who wield the power to own property and this creates a scenario where their human rights will be infringed on. The fourth amendment, therefore, seeks to guarantee citizens of this right, and it was important for it to be included in America’s bill of rights because it touches on citizens’ right to make a living or even provide for their families. The relationship that the property right has on citizens’ ability to own a home, start a business or make a living, therefore one major reason to enshrine the right to property in the bill of rights.

Right to Liberty

Earlier sections of this study note that, it is easy for tyranny to develop if property rights are not respected. In other words, it is almost impossible for a tyrannical government not to develop if the right to own property is not respected. However, it is also correct to not that, if the freedom to own property is not respected, the right to liberty will also be infringed upon. In a society where the property is not deemed sacred, not only will tyranny exist, liberty cannot exist as well. It is also important to acknowledge that, the highest responsibility for any government is to protect these alienable rights of the citizens (such as the right to own property). In this regard, Coffman notes that:

“Government is required to protect the property of every sort…This being the end of government; that alone is a just government which impartially secures, to every man, whatever is his own. That [which] is not [a] just government, nor is property secure under it, [is one] where arbitrary restrictions deny to part of its citizens that free use of their [property]”.

From this understanding, it becomes easy to deny people their freedom of choice because people are governed by natural laws and if such laws are not respected; their freedom of choice is withdrawn. This can be equated to denying a man his freedom of liberty and in the same regard, it is equal to denying a man his right to find happiness and live within the same. In this regard, Coffman establishes that “Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws…. On the contrary, no human legislature has the power to abridge or destroy them”.

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In the context of this study, the right to property is a natural law because it is an example of a law given to man by God. For instance, the right to cultivate and enjoy one produce from the farm is a natural law that emanates from the law of property. When human beings do not respect this law, it is the same as inviting a sense of tyranny to crop into the society because natural laws are as certain as the law of gravity, and failing to respect this law is equal to inviting death on oneself or throwing oneself from a cliff. In American law, natural laws should only be contravened when there is evidence that nuisance will be created and when the public good will be contravened.

Also, in affirming the link between private property and the right to liberty, it is important to note that, society is composed of individuals and collectively, it is human nature to embrace the concept of individualism. Under the concept of individualism, it is essential to note that, people have the freedom to do whatever they please with their lives and more importantly, their property. For instance, if one wants to spend their money away, it is within their rights to do so and not within the rights of the government, a tribe, ethnic group, and such like a segment of the society. However, before this right is respected, it is important to respect property rights because this is the only way through which society ensures people live their lives as they please and not infringe on the rights of other people. For instance, if a government did not respect a person’s right to own property, it would be infringing on the rights of its citizens to make decisions regarding their lives. Equally, this contravenes their right to liberty. Coffman establishes that:

“That is exactly why the right to private property is vital. When effectively protected, it secures for human individuals a sphere of personal jurisdiction, the right to acquire and hold the props, as it were, with which to order one’s life”.

In fact, some of the moral principles people desire in the world today, such as acts of kindness, compassion, and the likes can only be upheld when the right to property is respected. This is part of the natural law and if individuals are constrained from owning a part of the world, one cannot conduct oneself virtually.

In this regard, the respect of property rights guarantee people, some sense of sovereignty and since morally, human beings are bound to lead their lives based on their judgments and choices, it is only fair that, people are given the privilege of controlling their primary environments or what goes on around them. This is the basis of the fourth amendment and the property rights.

From this understanding therefore, we see that, the protection of the right to property is equal to protecting the natural laws of man, and the natural laws of man is only equal to the bill of rights. Failure to protect the natural law is also equal to inviting death on people and therefore it is important for the state to protect such natural laws. From this understanding, we therefore see that it was important for the founding fathers of the American constitution to enshrine the law of property in the bill of rights.

Moral Agency

Since we have established that the respect of property rights give people the right to determine their destiny or life, it is also correct to note that, property rights also give us the framework of our moral agency. In other words, it is difficult to make our ethical decisions effectual if we do not enjoy property rights, or if property rights are not respected by the state. For example, if morality was to be determined by our level of generosity, such a framework cannot be established if property rights cannot be respected. For instance, it would be impossible to be generous if we do not own anything. It would be strange for the society to give away what belongs to others and give them to the poor because this is the only way the society would operate without property rights in place. In other words, people would be reduced to bureaucrats and politicians who take people’s wealth and give it to others in the name of charities and such like events. Such kinds of acts cannot be termed acts of generosity but rather, acts of theft because the politicians would be unable to give what they truly own. From this understanding therefore, it is important to acknowledge that, property rights ought to be respected always. The upheaval of moral right is part of man’s existence on earth and generally, it is what makes life exist in its natural form. Denying people their property rights would therefore amount to denying people their human rights. This is the reason why property rights were enshrined in the bill of rights.


This study advances the point of view that, for the world to remain peaceful and for people to live a fulfilling life, it is important for property rights to be respected. Market existence is one such reason because for people to sustain their livelihoods and take care of their families, they need to make a living. Making a living is directly dependent on factors of production and property stands at the centre of it all. If property rights are contravened in this respect, it becomes difficult for people to make a living, and in the same regard, peoples’ rights will be contravened. The respect of property rights through the fourth amendment also guarantees people the right to morality, which is a critical part of human existence. The same can also be said of the right to liberty because through the respect of property rights, people are able to make a choice of how to live their lives. Lastly, this study acknowledges that, when property rights are not respected, people are likely to live in a sense of tyranny and such a situation is likely to create some form of life dependency on other people, which is also a contravention of peoples’ rights. From these insights, we therefore see that, the protection of property under the law was paramount to those who wrote the bill of rights.

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Michael Coffman. Property Rights the Foundation Of freedom (1997), Web.

Richard Posner. The Importance of Property Rights (2005), Web.

Tibor Machan. The Right to Private Property (2005), Web.

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