Corporate property rights

Journal of Business Ethics 5 (3):225 - 232 (1986)
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Abstract

Corporate property rights present an interesting challenge to the liberal conception of property rights, for it is unclear that the self-respect of individuals is promoted by the existence of a system of property rights for corporations. I argue that it is difficult even to identify who the individuals are who are the owners of large corporations, and why these individuals should be given the same claims, protections and immunities as other property rights holders since the liabilities of corporate property rights holders are not the same as of those, for instance, who own their own homes. In this paper I first try to understand who it is who owns the large corporation. Secondly, I show that the limited liability of these corporate property owners makes the justification of corporate property rights quite difficult, from the classical liberal perspective. I end with a few brief remarks on changes in legal policy which would be consistent with my arguments on the nature and justification of corporate property rights.

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Larry May
Vanderbilt University

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