James Gordley, ‘Private Rights and the Common Good’

Since the 19th century, private rights have been envisioned as zones of freedom in which the right-hold can do as he will. That idea persists. Those who oppose it often see the problem as how to curtail private rights in the interest of others In doing so, they take the 19th century conception of rights for granted. Those who discuss the common good often envision it either as an aggregate of private rights or as a social goal to be achieved at their expense. It was not always so. In the classical tradition that stretches from Aristotle to Hugo Grotius and the founders of the American Republic, rights such as property and contract were defined in terms of the social purposes that their serve. The common good was to be promoted by the protection of private rights. This Article describes that tradition and what we can learn from it.

Gordley, James Russell, Private Rights and the Common Good (May 8, 2022).

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