Self-Ownership and the Opportunity to Appropriate

Jeremy Waldron

in The Right to Private Property

Published in print November 1990 | ISBN: 9780198239376
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679902 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Self-Ownership and the Opportunity to Appropriate

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This chapter examines a position which is sometimes adopted by liberals as a sort of a ‘half-way house’ between an SR-based and a GR-based argument for private property. The position is that people do have a general right to private property, but that this right amounts only to a right to an opportunity to acquire property. In other words, the right generates a duty not to exclude anyone from the class of those who may own property, but it does not generate any duty to see to it that everybody does have property. Whether or not a particular person actually owns property depends, on this account, on whether he has gone through the procedures specified in an SR-based theory. It is argued that this position is unsatisfactory, mainly because it is difficult to find arguments which lend it support, but which do not also support the stronger view that ‘everyone must have property’. If that is so, then it is disingenuous on the part of those who believe that an unequal distribution is justified to cite GR-based arguments for private property to legitimate that position.

Keywords: private property; general rights; unequal distribution; acquisition

Chapter.  14400 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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