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The Hamlyn Lectures 2011: The Rule of Law and the Measure of Property


Jeremy Waldron


New York University School of Law

June 17, 2011

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-47

Abstract:     
The idea in these lectures is to discuss the relation between property and the rule of law in a deeper way than this has been discussed in the past, in particular in a way that reflects realistic understanding of how property rights are created and modified. I use the Lockean phrase "the measure of property" but the gist of my argument will be that our thinking about the rule of law needs to focus on all the ways in which property is non-Lockean in its origin, legal status, and moral force. In the course of doing this, I will be looking at some of the rather naive assumptions underlying the tight connection that has been forged between property rights and the rule of law in neo-liberal political economy. And I will argue that we can abandon or modify some of these naive assumptions about property without compromising the very great importance that is properly attached to the ideal of the rule of law.

There are three lectures in all. Unfortunately the original lecture titles are not a good indication of the eventual contents. Lecture 1 was called "The Classical Lockean Picture and its Difficulties" and it mainly addresses the alleged contrast between (a) the rule of law and (b) rule by law, and the suggestion that property rights might be privileged under (a). It explores Richard Epstein's version of this idea and then it spends some time on the Lockean account of property. The argument is that in the real world even Lockean property has an inescapable public law dimension. Lecture 2 was called "Unraveling the Form and Substance of Property," but it is really about the contrast between formal/procedural and substantive views of the rule of law and the dificulties inherent in identifying respect for private property rights as a substantive dimension of the rule of law. The argument is that given the accordion-like expandability of the category of property, this cannot work to privilege property rights over other legal rights etc. Lecture 3 was called "The Rule of Law, Property, and Legislation" and it is a defense of legislation, including regulatory and redistributive legislation in light of the rule of law.

Readers should note that although I spend a lot of time discussing the fact situation in Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), these lectures are not lectures in American constitutional law, nor do they aim to build pathways through the swamp of US takings jurisprudence.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 66

Keywords: Dicey, Epstein, Hayek, legislation, Locke, new property, property, regulatory takings, rule by law, rule of law

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Date posted: June 21, 2011 ; Last revised: July 9, 2011

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, The Hamlyn Lectures 2011: The Rule of Law and the Measure of Property (June 17, 2011). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-47. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1866357 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1866357

Contact Information

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)
New York University School of Law ( email )
40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
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