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The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

Elgar original reference

Edited by Enrico Colombatto

Economics is a matter of choice and growth, of interaction and exchange among individuals. Because property rights define the rules of these interactions and the objects of exchange, it is vital to fully understand the institutions and implications of the various property-rights regimes. With over 20 original and specially commissioned chapters, this book takes the reader from the historical and moral foundations of the discipline to the frontiers of scholarly research in the field.

Chapter 9: Can Constitutions Protect Private Property Against Governmental Predation?

Andrzej Rapaczynski

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public choice


Andrzej Rapaczynski* Why is property a value? There is considerable confusion about the values that property rights are supposed to serve. It is possible, of course, to value the institution of private property for its own sake. It might be fun, for example, to be able to exclude other people from the use and enjoyment of certain things. But this is not the kind of feeling that is likely to inspire great respect for the institution of private property and convince a nation’s lawgivers to place it among the specially protected values in the country’s constitution. The reason why private property is considered important usually refers to some other values that it is supposed to serve. And it may be useful to look at some of these values briefly, for they are quite a motley of different things and, consequently, private property may be viewed by different people as good or bad for a whole variety of different reasons. Personality or ‘expressive’ theory of property According to this view, property is important because it plays a vital role in the definition, and perhaps realization, of human personality. This view is often cited in the context of intellectual property: an author of a book, for example, has a very special relation to his creation. The book (in the ideal sense, protected by copyright laws) is not just an object in the world; it is a reflection of the author’s personality: his ideas, imagination, values and so on. Indeed,...

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