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Property Rights

Property Rights

Property rights are an entanglement of issues that have been argued for Centuries in society. If you need research on the philosophical or legal background of property rights, have the writers at Paper Masters explain any aspect of property rights or their history in a custom research paper.

The nineteenth century brought a rethinking of the philosophic basis of the concept of the social contract as well as the temporary collapse of the natural law theory as a basis of rights. Those who challenged these ideas felt that neither concept was a true guarantor of rights, nor did they reflect the views and application of rights during the period.

The social contract model could result in a tyranny of the majority that is not always reasonable for the following two reasons:

  1. The consensus of the majority served to define the current nature of rights, which were not absolute and could be removed at any time.
  2. The rights suggested by natural law could easily mutate if the views or interpretation of society regarding the nature of the divine should change.

To replace these two theoretical underpinnings of rights, legal philosophers suggested a kind of utilitarianism, which demanded more precision in defining rights.

Because of the economic growth, industrialization and urbanization that swept through society during the nineteenth century, much of the analyses of rights focused on property and political rights. The traditional right to non-interference with property assumed a greater dimension as the freedom to contract became the practical manifestation of the right. This led to the ascendancy of the principle of property, which became a dominant theme in rights discourse. In part, the focus on property rights was a reflection of the heightened economic activity and the wealth it brought to the nation, which the consensus of society believed was deserving of special protection.

At the same time, the social upheaval caused by the Industrial Revolution created working and living conditions that required remedy. This led to the development of socio-political movements such as Marxism that questioned the validity and method of application of traditional rights. In response, society broadened political rights, as the franchise was gradually extended until it became universal and unencumbered. This created an increasingly diverse discourse on the nature of shared values represented by traditional rights, and the development of a public policy mechanism to define the methods of application. Rights began to be thought of in practical terms rather than philosophic terms.

In the thinking of this era, justice was seen as an elusive concept, since it mutated depending on an individual's circumstances within society. Even reasonable minds could have radically different opinions of it. Although justice was a value that could not easily be defined, its corollary of injustice, could be avoided with a higher likelihood of consensus. Thus, rights were largely conceived of in a negative context in which it was unjust to deprive a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. This concept of rights, however, was as difficult to objectively analyze as the morality or the social contract models, since it depended on a mutable and often vague concept of injustice.

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