Published in Journal of Constitutional Law, vol. 9, no. 2 (January 2007).
The three fascinating papers by Dick Helmholz, Jim Ely, and Mark Tushnet prompt me to ask, why was there so much talk among late 18th and 19th century American lawyers about property as a "natural" right and why has the language persisted today? More specifically, what work is the rhetoric of "natural property rights" intended to do? This is not the proper occasion for developing anything like complete answers to those questions, but I do want to offer three lines of thought that might begin to approach a fuller explanation of the puzzling persistence of natural-property-rights talk.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Helmholz, Ely, Tushnet, Natural property rights
Alexander, Gregory S., "Commentaries: The Ambiguous Work of “Natural Property Rights”" (2007). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 66.