Projects and Property

In David Schmidtz (ed.), Robert Nozick. Cambridge University Press (2002)
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I try in this essay to accomplish two things. First I offer some first thoughts toward a clarification of the ethical foundations of private property rights that avoids pitfalls common to more strictly Lockean theories, and is thus better prepared to address arguments posed by critics of standard private property arrangements. Second, I'll address one critical argument that has become pretty common over the years. While versions of the argument can be traced back at least to Pierre Joseph Proudhon, I'll focus on a formulation given it by Jeremy Waldron. The basic idea is that the only sound arguments for private property rights lead to the conclusion that society has an obligation to insure that every citizen possess private property. In Waldron's formulation, what is justifiable is a general, rather than a special, right to private property. I shall try to suggest that this conclusion is unwarranted.



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John T. Sanders
Rochester Institute of Technology

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