Property in the Law

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Browsing through an old law school text recently (by Professor A.N. Yiannopoulos of Tulane), I noticed with interest the following comments on nature of property rights:

“Property may be defined as an exclusive right to control an economic good, corporeal or incorporeal; it is the name of a concept that refers to the rights and obligations, privileges and restrictions that govern the relations of man with respect to things of value. People everywhere and at all times desire the possession of things that are necessary for survival or valuable by cultural definition and which, as a result of the demand placed upon them, become scarce. Laws enforced by organized society control the competition for, and guarantee the enjoyment of, these desired things. What is guaranteed to be one’s own is property.”

This practical-legal definition dovetails nicely with libertarianism’s more political-philosophical theories of property and rights, e.g. those in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (e.g., chapters 1 and 2, esp. pp. 5-6 & 8-18, discussing notions of scarcity, aggression, property, norms, and justification; and chapter 9, “The Ethical Justification of Capitalism and Why Socialism Is Morally Indefensible”, esp. pp. 130-145).I’ve written on this in Defending Argumentation Ethics; and on the civil law versus the common law in Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society.

11:55 am on May 11, 2004