How to talk to Millennials about Property Rights by Joanne Cooney

Joanne Cooney
Joanne Cooney

Reprinted with permission of the author and the Landowner Magazine.

I’m a younger woman who grew up in the public education system of the 1990’s. I can assure you that private property rights was not a concept or topic that was covered in the curriculum. We were too busy learning about “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and how to conserve water.

So, for me, in today’s society it is difficult to engage in a conversation about property rights. If I ever bring up the subject (outside of my Landowner friends), I am usually met with blank stares and a complete lack of comprehension of even the basic concept that property rights exist.

So when I stumble across someone, especially a politician, that is not only aware of property rights, but also publically makes comments like “Property rights are essential to individual rights, and it is appropriate for government to protect these rights through laws and policy…” I’m intrigued.

millenials-joanne-clooneyAfter a one hour phone interview with Tim Moen, Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, I hung up the phone feeling hopeful.

Don’t be dissuaded by Tim being ‘a politician’. He is the Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, but his opinions have been built on his experiences growing up on a farm in rural Alberta, his work as a paramedic and firefighter, and his time as a small business owner.

During the interview we briefly discussed his career in politics and he said, “The win for me isn’t getting a seat in Parliament, the win for me is a freer society. Our government is not controlled by politicians, it is controlled by culture, by the aggregate belief systems our neighbours have. If we want to see less government and more property rights we really need to change culture. We need to educate, provoke, inspire, do whatever we can to reach one heart and one mind at a time. To win elections we have to reflect culture, entrench it, amplify the status quo, but to win freedom we have to do the opposite, we have to change culture… I could take other parties up on their offers to run and get a guaranteed seat but I am not interested in spinning my wheels in Parliament, nor am I naive enough to think that telling people things they want to hear is going to make our country freer.”

Tim can relate just about any issue in our society back to the foundation and importance of property rights.

What I really wanted to know was, “How do we effectively explain private property rights to a generation of people that have no concept of it?” Tim’s main message was to know your audience and find a way to speak their language, “connect with an underlying common set of principles.” When Tim speaks to an audience of Millennials, that are typically more ‘left’ leaning on the political spectrum he says, “they typically want to push back against corporatism and big government, against oil companies… they view society as oppressor versus oppressed.” Tim would tell this group that they “…ought to back up property rights as it allows people to have immediate access to justice and a right to what is theirs. Explain how it elevates women and the poor, how property rights gives people power and fights oppression…that’s the language the left understands.”

We talked about the growing rural – urban divide as well, as the majority of Millennials can’t relate to property rights. They’ve been raised in a culture that doesn’t talk about them. In addition, more and more people are living in urban areas than ever before. According Statistics Canada, in the 2011 census, only 14% of the Population of Ontario lived in a rural environment. Tim says that when you live in a rural setting “…you’re exposed to a different culture where your homestead is your kingdom. It’s yours and you’re vigilant about people driving on your land, you’re vigilant about threats, and always aware of where your property is and respect where other people’s property is. You till and plow a field making it into something useful… but you come to the city and start hearing things about expropriation, seeing all the politics, and hear things like “well you ought to have property rights, but not all the way” the idea of ‘sacrifice for the greater good’ and government should have ownership for the greater good. A man’s property was his property, nowadays in culture we don’t get the idea that anyone has the basis for property rights. There’s no understanding… people think that government gives them rights, they have no concept that rights are inalienable and are there regardless of whether or not the government decides you should have them. Government is there to protect them and not infringe on them.”

He goes on to explain his perception of how urbanites perceive the rural landscape, “If you’re urban, then the country is there for your leisure, you want it preserved for you to go out there to have leisure time, so you want the government to protect it as it is. You don’t want some cattle operation to infringe on your perception on what you perceive as pristine.”

As Landowner’s we’ve seen this many times. Many of the staff and Directors that run the Conservation Authorities, and Ministries go home to their urban town homes at the end of their shift. ‘Protecting’ the land that Landowner’s live off of is just a day job to them, for Landowner’s it’s a lifestyle.

Tim explains, “When you’re rural, you see land for what it really is, it’s cold, and harsh and unforgiving. There’s mosquitoes, and you’re out there pounding in fence posts and there’s rocks and roots in your way. You start to have a very different view about nature and property and who oughtta be in charge of that… you can’t keep it in a pristine state of nature. You haven’t lost empathy or compassion, you just have to have that respect for property rights, you need to be able to control the property the way you need to.”

Tim says that regardless of who you are speaking to, you have to have exceptional communication skills. “It’s about honing your communications skills. They aren’t going to listen to you until they trust you. They won’t listen to you until they know how you make them feel. Try to reach a mutual understanding and ask, ‘How do I view myself? Am I a warrior going to clobber people? Or am I going to be a healer and entrepreneur?’ You need to bring value to them and explain property rights and what it can do for them in their life. Humans who are free and own themselves, people who are flourishing in an environment of freedom, they are more powerful humans.”

I wrapped up the interview by asking him his opinion on the best way to approach and communicate with the next generation when it comes to Land ownership and private property rights- “How do we loop in ‘the left’ in our fight?” Tim says, “I don’t know what the best approach is…solidifying a hard-line position has some merit…my worry right now is that we’re all marching towards increased conflict. People are holding strong. Preparing for war. No olive branches. There will be conflict in the future unless people start building bridges. We all need to be asking ourselves ‘What are the shared values? How can we get people on our side?’ The only chance we have to save western civilization is to change hearts and minds. …when you throw your hands up you’re giving up. So we need to communicate. If people can see how it works in their own home they can then see how it applies in society, and then we will see a much different government emerge, one that protects them rather than imposes on them.”

Before we hung up the phone, I asked him what final message he had for Landowners across Canada in today’s political environment and the seemingly endless uphill battle? “Don’t give up the effort, don’t get discouraged, keep at it. Liberty isn’t anything you can ever rest your laurels on. It’s a process and an ongoing process…there’s no ‘Liber-topia’, there’s no end point, it’s ongoing. Engage in the disciplined action in order to flourish. We can have an exceptional amount of property rights but it requires getting up and doing the necessary work. It’s not drudgery, it’s not a grind, it’s fun and exciting, but we can’t stop.”

Tim will be touring the country over the next year. He stopped in Ontario the weekend of October 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 2016. For more information you can follow him on Twitter @moen_tim or online at
Editor’s note: Joanne Cooney is the Marketing Director for the Carleton Landowners Association. She writes for the Landowner Magazine and is the organizer of the Mom Conference held in Kanata in 2016.