Paul Babie, ‘Review Essay: Property, Predation, and Protection

What is property? It is neither what it may first appear nor what we are first told it might be. Let me explain. What property first appears to be is a means of allocating goods and resources. Typically, philosophers and other social and legal theorists begin by saying that property is a system whereby scarce resources – usually everything that people can either see or imagine – are allocated amongst individuals (individuals can be natural – you and me; and legal – corporations).

It is often difficult to work out how a system of property achieves the initial allocation of a particular good or resource. For that reason, those who acquire a good or resource on that initial allocation are sometimes said to have won the lottery of enjoying the resource. Joseph William Singer calls this initial allocation of a resource a ‘magic moment’ (Singer 172; drawing on Nozick 151-64), aptly capturing the mystical and mystifying way in which the law allows some to end up as ‘haves’ while others, usually a large majority, end up as ‘have nots’.

Babie, Paul T, Review Essay: Property, Predation, and Protection (September 12, 2016). East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, ISSN 2292-7956 Volume III, No 2 (2016); U of Adelaide Law Research Paper No 2016-35.

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