Entitlement: The Paradoxes of Property

Joseph William Singer
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this important work of legal, political, and moral theory, Joseph William Singer offers a controversial new view of property and the entitlements and obligations of its owners. Singer argues against the conventional understanding that owners have the right to control their property as they see fit, with few limitations by government. Instead, property should be understood as a mode of organizing social relations, he says, and he explains the potent consequences of this idea.Singer focuses on the ways in which property law reflects and shapes social relationships. He contends that property is a matter not of right but of entitlement-and entitlement, in Singer's work, is a complex accommodation of mutual claims. Property requires regulation-property is a system and not just an individual entitlement, and the system must support a form of social life that spreads wealth, promotes liberty, avoids undue concentration of power, and furthers justice. The author argues that owners have not only rights but obligations as well-to other owners, to nonowners, and to the community as a whole. Those obligations ensure that property rights function to shape social relationships in ways that are both just and defensible.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12854-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Joseph William Singer
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    At the start of the twenty-first century, faith in private property as a mode of social and economic organization is as strong as it has ever been. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, it appears that no alternative exists to the market economy. The nations of the former Soviet bloc have converted institutions previously controlled by the government to private ownership. Market solutions to social problems are being implemented in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the 1990s a Democratic president supported the movement to end “big...

  5. Chapter 1 Paradoxes of Property
    (pp. 19-55)

    Water is a valuable resource in Texas. Between 1964 and 1971 the Friendswood Development Company dug wells on its property in Harris County and began to withdraw “vast quantities of underground water” from those wells for sale to industrial users.¹ Neighboring property owners began to complain that Friendswood was drawing water from underneath their land, as well as its own. The neighbors depended on the water contained in the underlying aquifers to help support the surface of their land. In 1973 those neighbors sued Friendswood and its corporate parent, Exxon, for undermining the subjacent support for their land.² They argued...

  6. Chapter 2 From Title to Entitlement
    (pp. 56-94)

    When Janet Lucas Breene and William Lucas bought a condominium in Bismarck, North Dakota, there were no legal restrictions on their ability to lease the unit.¹ The declaration establishing the condominium did grant the condominium association a right of first refusal should the owners ever decide to lease or sell their property. This meant that Breene and Lucas could choose whether to lease their unit, but they could not necessarily choose who their tenant would be. If and when they decided to lease it, the association had the right to assume the lease itself if it wanted to do so....

  7. Chapter 3 Property and Social Relations
    (pp. 95-139)

    Rock Creek Lake is located in the middle of a large ranch in Powell County, Montana. Until 1972 Robert Tavenner was the sole owner of the lake and the land around it, as well as one of the owners of the company that owned and operated the ranch. Beginning in 1922 Tavenner gave permission to various friends, neighbors, and employees of the ranch to build summer homes and cabins around his lake. By 1972 forty cabins had been constructed with a total assessed value of $300,000. The cabins had been built with the ranch owners’ consent and possibly their implied...

  8. Chapter 4 Systemic and Distributive Norms
    (pp. 140-178)

    You are advising the new government of an Eastern European country that has just emerged from communism and is seeking to institute a private property regime. As an advocate of private property, you recommend that the government organize a program to privatize government-owned industries, housing, and farms. Your goal is to create a free and democratic society characterized by individual liberty and a market economy. Imagine your reaction if the prime minister proudly announced to you that the government had privatized all its properties in one day by handing out all the land, buildings, and industry in the country to...

  9. Chapter 5 Reparation
    (pp. 179-196)

    In the beginning, the Jewish mystics tell us, God was everywhere. When God made the world, God needed to open up a place for it. God withdrew from part of the universe to make an empty space, thechallal panui, in which the world could be created. In order to create this new space, God set a part of God’s own light in heavenly vessels. But God cannot be contained in a vessel and when the world was born, these vessels shattered into billions of pieces, scattering the light of God into billions of tiny sparks. The world that God...

  10. Chapter 6 Expectations and Obligations
    (pp. 197-216)

    Aaron Feuerstein is the owner of Malden Mills, a textile company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When three of his nine buildings were destroyed by fire just before Christmas in 1995, Feuerstein not only announced that he would rebuild but promised to pay his workers their wages for the next month (at $1.5 million a week) even though he was not legally required to do so. He also promised to attempt to rehire all of them and to help those he could not rehire by retraining them for new jobs. And he assured them they would each receive their expected $275 Christmas...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 217-234)
  12. Index
    (pp. 235-241)