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Article

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Property as the Keystone Right?, 71 Notre Dame Law Review 329 (1996)

Abstract

The collapse of socialist regimes has revived an interest in property rights allover the world, as once-statist nations consider privatization as a route to commercial and economic revitalization. Even here in the property-conscious United States, constitutional property rights have become a subject of renewed popular and political interest.

But property rights have a somewhat uneasy place in a constitutional ordering. There are of course substantial libertarian arguments for property rights as an element of personal autonomy, but on the whole, the post-socialist enthusiasm for property seems to have been overwhelmingly economic: the allure of property is that it enhances wealth, both personal and social. Constitutions, on the other hand, are concerned classically and fundamentally with political ordering. While property is often included among constitutionally protected rights, it seems less central to the political core of constitutional government than the rights most critical to self-governance—primarily voting, speech, and assembly. On the other hand, property's central role in economic (or "merely economic") ordering would seem to be peripheral to the political order, or to the individual rights that support democratic governance.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1996

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