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Comment: The Ambiguous Work of 'Natural Property Rights'

Gregory S. Alexander

Cornell Law School

November 3, 2006

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-043

The three fascinating papers by Dick Helmholz, Jim Ely, and Mark Tushnet prompt me to ask, why was there so much talk among late 18th and 19th century American lawyers about property as a "natural" right and why has the language persisted today? More specifically, what work is the rhetoric of "natural property rights" intended to do? This is not the proper occasion for developing anything like complete answers to those questions, but I do want to offer three lines of thought that might begin to approach a fuller explanation of the puzzling persistence of natural-property-rights talk.

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Date posted: November 7, 2006  

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Alexander, Gregory S., Comment: The Ambiguous Work of 'Natural Property Rights' (November 3, 2006). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-043. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=942654 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.942654

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Gregory S. Alexander (Contact Author)
Cornell Law School ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
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