Advanced Topics in Liberty
Property Rights and Freedom
For all students
February 22-24, 2008 - Philadelphia, PA
The purpose of this conference is to explore the relationship between liberty and property rights from both historical and theoretical perspectives. What, for example, are the different philosophical foundations for a positive relationship between liberty and property? Are the best defenses for property primarily empirical or conceptual? The central idea of the colloquium is to investigate the philosophical roots and economic significance of property rights and how liberty relates to such rights.
The conference will initially focus on the historical emergence of property rights. This will serve as a method of exploring the rationale for property rights and their function in early modern society. In this context we will also examine how government, voluntary action, and spontaneous processes have inhibited or enhanced property rights.
These historical concerns will lay a foundation for more theoretical considerations on the relationship between property and liberty. What, for example, are the most compelling philosophical grounds for private ownership? What normative arguments can be brought to bear in defense of property? How does the bundle of "ownership" rights included in, for example, the rights of use and transfer imply basic economic liberty? Can the claims, powers, immunities, and liberties (to use the words of Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld) entailed in private property rights be used as foundations for the defense of other rights in other free societies?
In addition to these historical and philosophical considerations, we will examine some of the economic justifications for property rights. How, for example, do property rights facilitate spontaneous market processes? How are dissimilar markets coordinated more effectively with property rights? What problems do property rights resolve? Which problematic economic issues (if any) remain unresolved through an appeal to private property?
The conference will also examine the legal frameworks within which property rights are best protected. These discussions will explore both de jure foundations for property and the de facto institutions that guarantee rights-based claims. There is traditionally a close relationship between legal frameworks, property rights, and the decentralization of power. Discussions will examine the nature of this relationship, and how its strengths can be extended to protect individual rights.
While classical liberals vigorously defend the right to private property, many schools of political thought endorse severe restrictions (or absolute abrogation) of property rights. These issues are, of course, particularly salient in countries such as Sweden, where the welfare state--virtually unhampered by checks and balances-- appropriates large portions of private income as part of its operating ideals. Other schools of thought (utilitarianism and Marxism, for example) necessitate large degrees of state intervention that undermine both the philosophical basis and practical application of property rights. In our closing discussions, we will examine some of these arguments in an effort to refine and develop the rigor and legitimacy of our own claims.
Bruce Yandle is a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Economics for the Mercatus Center's Capitol Hill Campus program and the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Economics and Legal Studies at Clemson University, where he has been a faculty member since 1969.
Dr. Yandle is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Taking the Environment Seriously, The Political Limits of Environmental Regulation, Environmental Use and the Market, Land Rights, The Economics of Environmental Quality, and most recently, Common Sense and Common Law for the Environment. He is a member of the South Carolina State Board of Economic Advisors.
From 1976 to 1978, Dr. Yandle was a senior economist on the staff of the President's Council on Wage and Price Stability, where he reviewed and analyzed newly proposed regulations. From 1982 to 1984, he was executive director of the Federal Trade Commission. Before entering a career in university teaching, Dr. Yandle was in the industrial machinery business in Georgia for fifteen years.
Dr. Yandle received his Ph.D. and M.B.A. from Georgia State University and his A.B. degree from Mercer University.
Session I: The Origins of Property Rights
- Harold Demsetz's "Toward a Theory of Property Rights"
- Richard Pipes's "The Idea of Property" in Property and Freedom, pages 4-63
Session II: Philosophical Bases for Property Rights
- John Locke's "Of Property," in The Second Treatise of Civil Government, Chapter V, pages 19-31
- Robert Nozick's "Distributive Justice," in Anarchy, State and Utopia, pages 149-182
- David Schmidtz's "Property" in The Limits of Government, pages 16-32
Session III: Markets and Property Rights
- Armen Alchian's "Some Economics of Property Rights," reprinted in Economic Forces at Work, pages 127-149
- Douglas C. North's "A Framework for Analysing Economic Organization in History," in Structure and Change in Economic History, pages 33-44
Session IV: Property Rights and the Rule of Law
- David Hume's "Of the Origin of Justice and Property," "Of the Rules which Determine Property," and "Of the Transference of Property by Consent" in A Treatise of Human Nature
- Douglas C. North's "Enforcement" in Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, pages 54-60
Session V: Property Rights: Cultural Contexts
- Tom Bethell's "Plato's Conceit: Property at Jamestown and Plymouth" and "China, Property, and Democracy" in The Noblest Triumph, pages 33-43 and 327-343
Session VI: Critiques of Property Rights
- G. A. Cohen's "Self-Ownership, World-Ownership and Equality" in Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, pages 67-91
- Jeremy Bentham's "Anarchical Fallacies" or "Nonsense Upon Stilts" in ‘Nonsense upon Stilts': Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man, edited by Jeremy Waldron, pages 46-69
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