Property Theory, Essential Resources, and the Global Land Rush
24 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 29, 2013
Recent large scale transnational transfers of land threaten members of rural communities in the developing world who rely for food and shelter on access to land they lack formal title to. Contrary to some of the conventional wisdom, this Essay argues that liberal property theory provides important inroads for addressing this challenge. Properly interpreted, property requires an ongoing (albeit properly cautious) redefinition of existing property institutions as well as the design of new ones, in light of changing circumstances and in response to the liberal property values of personal independence, labor, personhood, aggregate welfare, community, and distributive justice. These property values imply that the new, transnational land market must accommodate a property institution for essential resources that secures the individual and collective rights of pre-existing users. Securing these rights does not require that we reject the logic of competitive markets. Quite the contrary. One promising path for realizing these rights is to strengthen competition through properly designed auctions that ensure the members of local communities choices between outright sale offers and equity investment in local cooperatives.
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