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Justifications For And Criticisms Of Private Property Notes

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This is an extract of our Justifications For And Criticisms Of Private Property document, which we sell as part of our Property A Notes collection written by the top tier of Monash University students.

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Justifications for and criticisms of private property Property theories: Ziff's Hierarchy First order theories: why do we have the institution of private property?
Second order theories: assuming we have private property, what 'things' should be objects of property?
Third order theories: assuming a 'thing' can be owned, who should hold the right to it?
Justification theories (first order theories in Ziff's hierarchy) (1.110E) Justification theories are necessary because property rights come about due to a belief that the right to hold private property is a human right. A legal belief has to be grounded in a public belief that the right is morally right, since property rights (eg in land larger than a person can work himself, capital) by some measure allow a person to control the lives of others.

1. First occupation theory finder's keepers o

(M R Cohen article) Based on "the assumed right of the original discover and occupant to dispose of that which thus became his".


However in Australia - the first people do not have all title - Crown has this. This is a fairly crude older theory.

2. Locke's labour theory/natural rights theory - the right to the fruits of one's own labour o

According to this theory, all property was originally owned in common but people (at Locke's time only men) could appropriate the property by mingling their labour with it. Things belonged to the man who had made them.


Writing in 1690. Before 1688 the King owned all the land and then the aristocracy did. Although originally we held everything in common, this theory said men had a right to appropriate property as a result of them mingling their labour with the property. Eg if you develop the property (eg are a peasant toiling the land you may have a proprietary right to the produce of the land). This theory did not take off in England at the time Locke was writing because the peasants did most of the labour and if followed this would mean they (not the govt etc) owned the land. Locke's theory was often used to dispossess the land of First Peoples as they did not 'toil the land' as the colonialists thought they should. You will see this theory come up in court cases quite often - has this person put work into the land?


'Life, liberty and property' (Locke's catchcry): [in US and the pursuit of happiness]

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