Property rights and the right to the fruits of one's labor: A note on Adam Smith's jurisprudence

Economics and Philosophy 21 (2):279-289 (2005)
This paper provides further evidence to the argument that Smith' theory of justice did not follow the natural justice school and that subsequently the ethical position on acquiring private property is not independent of the effects which such acquisition may have on the property-less individuals. I will show that the justification for private ownership is based on “reasonable expectations” which owners of assets have with regard to the fruits of the asset. The expectation to subsist through the use of one's natural assets is equally reasonable. This is not to say that Smith believed that society should equally distribute income. But it does mean that the acquisition of private property must not interfere with the rights of individuals to subsist. Consequently, distribution is clearly an important part of Smith's conception of justice. Footnotes1 I am in debt to P. Bridel, A. Cot, J. Young and the anonymous referees of this Journal for helpful comments.
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267105000581
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