PROPERTY RIGHTS IN LAND: A PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS OF THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE OWNERSHIP OF LAND

CHRISTOPHER PAUL MOONEY, Fordham University

Abstract

This thesis is an examination of the rights and responsibilities attendant upon property in land. Beginning with an analysis of the nature of rights in general, and their relationship to duties, it is shown that property rights entail specific duties. By employing Hohfeld's classification of rights and by outlining the specifications necessary to understand any particular set of rights, the stage is set to explore the nature of property rights.^ Six criteria for distributive justice are discussed: (1) To each the same; (2) To each according to his merit or achievement; (3) To each according to his work or contribution; (4) To each according to his needs or requirements; (5) To each according to his status or position; (6) To each according to his contract or agreements. The role of each in relation to property in land is explored. Following Honore's exposition, the liberal conception of ownership is outlined. The implications of this for land ownership are discussed.^ Consideration is given to the special importance and status of land. It is shown that land is a primary good necessary for all human activity, and yet past and present patterns of ownership of land have often been unjust. The nature of economic rent is examined and the advantages of access to favorable sites demonstrated.^ The five most important arguments for property in land are outlined: (1) the argument from first occupancy; (2) the argument from the labor theory of property acquisition; (3) the argument from social and economic utility; (4) the argument from political liberty; (5) the argument from personality or moral development. Each of these arguments is shown to be inadequate to demonstrate the need or rationale for private ownership of land. Access to land is essential, but unless men put land to good use, there is no justification of private property in land. Moreover, since some sites are bound to be more productive than others, access to the better sites demands the responsibility to restore the full economic rent to the community from which it comes. How this may be done is shown by examining the nature of site value taxation. An effort is made to clarify the difference between this form of land tax and the general property tax. It is pointed out that site value taxation encourages capital improvement because it only taxes land not buildings.^ Attention is also given to the responsibilities of property in land in relation to the environment. Preservation, pollution, and conservation are all discussed. Man's responsibility to future generations is examined. It is shown that the heritage of land is special and entails particular responsibilities.^ In conclusion it is argued that payment of the economic rent from land by a site value tax, conservation of the environment, equal access to land, and productive use of land are duties necessary to protect and promote equal access to property in land. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

MOONEY, CHRISTOPHER PAUL, "PROPERTY RIGHTS IN LAND: A PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS OF THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE OWNERSHIP OF LAND" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8123562.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123562

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