The Expressive Transparency of Property
Jane B. Baron
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Columbia Law Review, Vol. 102, p. 208, 2002
This Essay examines expressive theories of law. In two new books, property theorist Joseph Singer condemns the dominant, absolutist, conception of property for failing to express the full range of our values; he suggests its replacement with a model, epitomized by the generous commitment of Malden Mills owner Aaron Feuerstein to rebuild his plant after a catastrophic fire, that expresses not just the powers but the obligations that flow from ownership. After questioning how we interpret what law says or expresses, the Essay asks how we should understand expressivist projects such as Singer's. Should we characterize expressivists as idealists, throwing one concept (ownership obligates) against another (ownership is freedom) in the naive hope that long-entrenched beliefs and understandings will be displaced by the simple demonstration that other beliefs and understandings are plausible? Or should we see them instead as meaning entrepreneurs, who cleverly trade on intuitively appealing images such as that of Aaron Feuerstein to disrupt conventional associations between, for example, property and selfishness?
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: property, expressive theory of law, ownership, obligation, entitlement, meaning entrepreneur, transparency
Date posted: January 30, 2002