Progressive Genetic Ownership

68 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2017 Last revised: 19 May 2018

Date Written: February 26, 2018


Recently, property scholars have challenged neoclassical economic theory as the primary lens for understanding ownership. As an alternative to the all-too familiar concepts of welfarism, the rational-actor theory, and cost-benefit analysis, they offer “progressive property,” a school of thought grounded in value pluralism, communitarianism, and redistribution. To date, much of the progressive property literature has focused exclusively on land use. This Article tests the versatility of this new property school by applying it to a novel context: genetic ownership. As with real property, discussions surrounding genetic ownership have been entrenched in neoclassical law and economics. Given the proliferation of deontological concerns related to genetic research — such as privacy, identity, autonomy, and distributive justice — neoclassical economic theory is woefully incomplete as a theory of genetic ownership. Progressive property promises a more complete approach. Yet this conclusion does not establish progressive property as universally appropriate. Certain unexpected similarities exist between land and genetic data. Thus, while progressive property is well-suited to situations dealing with unique objects of ownership that raise deontological concerns, it should not necessarily supplant law and economics in all contexts.

Keywords: Property, Genetics, Bioethics

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jessica L., Progressive Genetic Ownership (February 26, 2018). Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 1105, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4800 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics