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The Making of Modern Liberalism$
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Alan Ryan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148403

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148403.001.0001

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Utility and Ownership

Utility and Ownership

(p.556) 29 Utility and Ownership
The Making of Modern Liberalism

Alan Ryan

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the utilitarian account of property rights and argues that property rights are not basic rights of the kind utilitarianism is commonly said to misrepresent. It suggests that the utilitarian rejection of rights as a fundamental component in morality does create problems at the point at which a utilitarian's liberal intuitions come into conflict with the demands of the general welfare; but the rights that these intuitions seem to presuppose are not property rights. The chapter also considers John Stuart Mill's claim that all property is the creature of the law with his defense of individual liberty in On Liberty. It concludes with a discussion of four familiar issues in the theory of property: the problem of “initial appropriation” of unowned things; the state's rights of taxation and compulsory purchase; the legitimacy of slavery; and whether we “own” our bodies.

Keywords:   property rights, utilitarianism, morality, John Stuart Mill, property, liberty, initial appropriation, taxation, slavery, On Liberty

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