Move Along to Where? Property in Service of Democracy (A Tribute to André van der Walt)
Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-39
29 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2017 Last revised: 8 Dec 2017
Date Written: September 7, 2017
When the police in cities that prohibit sleeping in public spaces command that people on the streets “move along,” advocacy groups for the homeless have started a campaign that pointedly asks “move along to where?” This question seeks to highlight the reality that homeless persons are being subjected to an order with which they have no capacity to comply. In this instance, the state is defining and rigidly enforcing property rights without concern for the consequences of its doing so; it apparently is only after this exercise in definition and enforcement that the state can move to respect fundamental democratic values — such as dignity and equality — in the space that remains.
Inspired by the work of André van der Walt, we here present the alternate thesis that property exists in service of the values that characterize our democracy. We advance this thesis through the lens of two stories of eviction — the leading cause of homelessness in the U.S. — in which our democratic values seemingly and, in our view, unacceptably are taking a backseat to property.
Keywords: property, democracy, equality, dignity, progressive property, eviction, homelessness, landlord, tenant
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