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The University of Southampton
Southampton Ethics Centre

Ethical Challenges Lecture: Is Property A Right? Event

18:00 - 19:30
14 November 2022
Lecture Theatre A, Avenue Campus (On-campus only) Highfield Road Southampton SO17 1BF

Event details

Ethical Challenges Lecture 14th November 2022

People are very attached to their property. If you take what I own, it can seem like you are taking part of me. But this thought can be politically misleading – dangerous, even – if applied to the wide range of ownable things: do I take a part of you if I borrow the barn at the end of your country estate without your permission? What are you violating if you forcibly take into public ownership companies in which I have shares? If you tax my income or my wealth?

I will argue that property falls into two morally distinct types: (1) property whose moral justification depends primarily on how it serves its owner and (2) property whose moral justification depends primarily on how the system as a whole serves the common good. In my view, much property held by moderately well-off people today falls into the second category, and it turns out to be misleading to call it a ‘right’. It is better thought of as a form of control whose violation wrongs the community at large rather than the individual owner. I sketch the practical implications of this view for markets, taxation and the distinction between the public and the private sector.

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Speaker information

Professor Rowan Cruft,University of Stirling,Professor Rowan Cruft comes from the University of Stirling

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