The new politics of property rights

Critical Review 16 (4):377-403 (2004)
Abstract Philosophical defenses of property regimes can be classified as supporting either a conservative politics of property rights?the political protection of existing property titles?or a radical politics of direct political intervention to redistribute property titles. Traditionally, historical considerations were used to legitimize conservative property?rights politics, while consequentialist arguments led to radical politics. Recently, however, the philosophical legitimations have changed places. Conservatives now point to the beneficial economic consequences of something like the current private?property regime, while radicals justify political redistribution as restitution for historical misappropriations. This shift can be explained by such factors as the failure of state?directed redistributions of property during the twentieth century to benefit the poor. But there are limitations to the usefulness of historical arguments for radicals, and of consequentialist arguments for conservatives: namely, the undeserving poor and the idle rich, respectively.
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