1st Edition

Property and Justice A Liberal Theory of Natural Rights

By Billy Christmas Copyright 2021
    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    This book gives an account of a full spectrum of property rights and their relationship to individual liberty. It shows that a purely deontological approach to justice can deal with the most complex questions regarding the property system. Moreover, the author considers the economic, ecological, and technological complexities of our real-world property systems. The result is a more conceptually sound account of natural rights and the property system they demand.

    If we think that liberty should be at the centre of justice, what does that mean for the property system? Economists and lawyers widely agree that a property system must be composed of many different types of property: the kind of private ownership one has over one’s person and immediate possessions, as well as the kinds of common ownership we each have in our local streets, as well as many more. However, theories of property and justice have not given anything approaching an adequate account of the relationship between liberty and any other form of property other than private ownership. It is often thought that a basic commitment to liberty cannot really tell us how to arrange the major complexities of the property system, which diverge from simple private ownership.

    Property and Justice demonstrates how philosophical rigour coupled with interdisciplinary engagement enables us to think clearly about how to deal with real-world problems. It will be of interest to political philosophers, political theorists, and legal theorists working on property rights and justice.

    Introduction 1

    Property and Justice 1

    Original Acquisition: Connecting Property to Personhood 3

    Beyond Private Property 5

    Natural Rights and Social Conventions 8

    The Not-So-Minimum Content of Natural Rights 9

    The Theory 11

    1 The Form of Justice 16

    Introduction 16

    The Circumstances of Justice and Deontology 17

    Individual Rights 22

    Compossibility 24

    Conclusion 32

    2 The Substance of Justice 37

    Introduction 37

    The Right to Non-Interference in Our Non-Interfering Actions 37

    The One and Only Right 43

    Kinds of Interference 45

    Self-Ownership 48

    Necessity 51

    Conclusion 54

    3 Original Acquisition 59

    Introduction 59

    Use, Exclusion, and Ownership 60

    Extended Activity 68

    Contra Labour-Mixing 73

    Abandonment and Transfer 77

    Conclusion 81

    4 The Commons 87

    Introduction 87

    Liberty and Property After Ostrom 88

    Public Property 94

    Collective Property 95

    Conclusion 99

    5 The Limits to Appropriation 103

    Introduction 103

    Necessity, Revisited 103

    Against Engrossment 107

    Against Intellectual Property 109

    Intellectual Property as Ownership of Ideas 109

    Intellectual Property as Usufruct 111

    Conclusion 114

    6 Against the Proviso 118

    Introduction 118

    Nozick’s Proviso 119

    The Egalitarian Proviso 126

    Internal Accounts of the Provisos 129

    Conclusion 131

    7 Intentions and Conventions 135

    Introduction 135

    Intentions: Public and Private 136

    Conventions: Constitutive and Regulative 145

    Natural Rights and Social Change 152

    Conclusion 155

    Conclusion: Natural Rights and Liberal Politics 158


    Billy Christmas is a Lecturer in Political Theory at King’s College London in the Department of Political Economy, where he is also the PPE Programme Director. As a philosopher his research interests lie in Rights, Property, and Political Authority. He has previously published articles in journals such as The Journal of Politics, Economics and Philosophy, and The Philosophical Quarterly

    "Property is arguably the foundational issue in legal and political philosophy. Billy Christmas insightfully illuminates this foundational issue by elaborating a radical liberal—libertarian—theory of property. This provocative book will surely spur controversy and deepen understanding by showing how a libertarian account of property rights can address the perennial concerns of libertarianism’s critics while grounding robust safeguards for autonomy and flourishing."Gary Chartier, La Sierra University, USA

    "This book is the first serious attempt to combine a right-libertarian theory of individual private property with a solid theory of other forms of property, such as collective, public, and common property. It makes for a much more plausible and humane theory of property."Karl Widerquist, Georgetown University-Qatar