Titles of Nobility: Property, Poverty, and Immigration in a Free and Democratic Society
Joseph William Singer
Harvard Law School
June 12, 2013
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 13-32
This keynote address was delivered at the AALS conference on Property, Poverty, and Immigration in June 2013.
Both property and immigration are premised on exclusion yet both human rights and democratic norms require us to treat every human being with equal concern and respect. While neither sovereigns nor owners can have completely open borders, they have obligations to respect the human dignity of "the stranger." Biblical sources link the stranger with the poor and develop a version of the Golden Rule that requires both to be accorded "love." The related secular principle of equal concern and respect means that poverty is, in principle, incompatible with the norms of a free and democratic society. That principle is embodied in the constitutional prohibition on titles of nobility which mandates treating every human being as of equal value and importance. While the nobility clauses do not mandate particular policies, they do outlaw treatment that places some as occupying a lower status than others.This has consequences for both immigration and property law, as well as laws and policies designed to alleviate and prevent poverty.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: property, poverty, immigration, human rights
Date posted: August 24, 2013 ; Last revised: November 1, 2013