Current Empirical Premises to the Disclosure of the Secrets of Property in Law. A Foundation and a Guideline for Future Research

Author:Geir Stenseth
Pages:96-113
SUMMARY

This article presents an empirical legal study in the field of property theory. I take as my point of departure the perspective of exclusion. Such a basic perspective falls short, however, when we conceptualize the exceptions from the exclusion rule. In this respect, a diversified set of considerations and concerns claims attention, including the nature of the relationship between the possessor... (see full summary)

 
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96 ANCILLAIURIS(anci.ch)2008:96Synopsis
Summary1
Thisarticlepresentsanempiricallegalstudyinthefieldofprop
ertytheory.Itakeasmypointofdeparturetheperspectiveofex
clusion.Suchabasicperspectivefallsshort,however,whenwe
conceptualizetheexceptionsfromtheexclusionrule.Inthisre
spect,adiversifiedsetofconsiderationsandconcernsclaimsat
tention,includingthenatureoftherelationshipbetweenthe
possessorandtheobjectinquestion.Thisresearchdigsintothe
newachievementsinthefieldsofeconomicsandlifesciences,in
vestigatingthevalidityandrelevanceofargumentswhichmaybe
derivedfromthepossessorobjectdimension.Thefindingssug
gestadifferentiatedviewonhowpeoplecomprehendvarioussit
uationsofpossession,andthearticleproposesagradual
theoreticalmodelforshapingandmanagingthelegalconceptof
propertyinthisrespect.Finally,Iindicatesomepracticallegal
topicswhichmaytakeadvantageofthemodel(e.g.thefieldofex
propriation,theproblemofwhetherapossessionshouldbepro
tectedbyapropertyruleorbyaliabilityrule,andtheproblems
relatedtopropertyasahumanright).
1Dr.juris,DepartmentofPrivateLaw,FacultyofLaw,Universityof
Oslo(geir.stenseth@jus.uio.no).Thisresearchwasperformedat
theCenterfortheStudyofLawandSociety,UCBerkeleySchool
ofLaw.Iamgratefulfortheinvitationtothistrulymultidisci
plinaryandinternationalresearchmilieu,andtotheCentersaffil
iatesandfellowvisitingscholarsforinsightfuldiscussions.I
wouldalsoliketothankHenryE.SmithandCarolM.Rosefor
usefulcommentsandinputtothemanuscript.Furthermore,I
wouldliketothankGuidoCalabresi,OwenD.Jones,DanielKah
nemanandEndreStavangforprovidingothercommentaryuseful
tomeinvarious aspectsofthiswork.ThankstoKathrynA.Heard
aswellforhelpingmecompletethearticle,especiallywithrespect
tolinguisticmatters.Thisresearchis,amongothers,supportedby
theNaturalResourcesGroup,FacultyofLaw,UniversityofOslo,
withintheAREALprogrammeoftheResearchCouncilofNor
way.
1. Introductionandperspectives
1.1 Startingpoints
Acoupleofdecadesago,MargaretJaneRadinrevital
izedtheconceptofwhatshecalledpersonhoodproperty.
Shearguedthatpersonhoodpropertywasworthyofa
higherdegreeoflegalprotectionthanofferedbytheexist
inglegalpropertyconcept.2Herviewemphasizedtherela
tionshipbetweensubjectobject.Suchawayofthinkingdif
fersfromhowmainstreamjuriststhinkofproperty:asa
thirdpartyobjectrelationship.Assuch,propertyissimply
alegalconceptthatobligespeople(representingthem
selves,corporationsorstates)torestrainfrominterfering
withobjects(physicalthingsorideas)that,inthesocietyin
question,receivesuchprotection.Withinsuchaconcept,it
doesnotmatterwhatrelationshipthereisbetweenthe
objectandthespecificowner:Thedifferentobjectsoughtto
2MargaretJaneRadin,Propertyandpersonhood,inMargaretJane
Radin,Reinterpretingproperty(ChicagoandLondon,1993),35–
71.Thethoughtthat(differentinterpretationsof)personalprop
ertyneedsparticularlegalprotectionisfarfromnewandcanbe
connectedtonaturallawimpressions.Thisisnottheplacetogo
furtherintothehistoryanddevelopmentofdifferentversionsof
naturallawcomprehensions.Weshallonlypointouttwo
approachestopersonalpropertybysomeofthemostinfluential
legalphilosophersofthe20thcentury.Rawlsclaimsthatamong
“thebasicrightsistherighttoholdandtohavetheexclusiveuse
ofpersonalproperty.Onegroundofthisistoallowasufficient
materialbasisforpersonalindependenceandasenseofself
respect,bothofwhichareessentialfortheadequatedevelopment
andexerciseofthemoralpowersIdonotconsiderherewhat
fallsunderthispersonalright,excepttosaythatitwouldseemto
includeatleastcertainformsofrealproperty,suchasdwellings
andprivategrounds.”Ontheotherhand,Hartclaimsthatit“isa
merelycontingentfactthathumanbeingsneedfood,clothes,and
shelter;thatthesedonotexistathandinlimitlessabundance;but
arescarce,havetobegrownorwonfromnature,orhavetobe
constructedbyhumantoil.Thesefactsalonemakeindispensable
someminimalformoftheinstitutionofproperty(thoughnotnec
essarilyindividualproperty),andthedistinctivekindofrule
whichrequiresrespectforit.Thesimplestformsofpropertyareto
beseeninrulesexcludingpersonsgenerallyotherthanthe
ownerfromentryon,ortheuseofland,orfromtakingorusing
materialthingsAtalltimesandplaceslifeitselfdependson
theseminimalforbearances.”SeeJohnRawls(editedbyErin
Kelly),Justiceasfairness.Arestatement(Cambridge,Mass.,and
London,2001),114(thelastsentenceoccursinfootnote36);H.L.
A.Hart,Theconceptoflaw(eleventhimpression,Oxford,1981),
192.
CurrentEmpiricalPremisestotheDisclosureoftheSecretsofPropertyinLaw
AFoundationandaGuidelineforFutureResearch
GeirStenseth
StensethPropertyinLaw
ANCILLAIURIS(anci.ch)2008:96Article 97
berespectedtotheextentthelawprotectstheclassof
objects.
Theimportanceofdistinguishingbetweenthesetwo
relationsandperspectiveswhenmakinglegalargumentsis
oneofthemainthemesofthisarticle.Theyareillustrated
infigures1and2below.
Fig.1
Fig.2
1.2 Twoinfluentialphilosophicalperspectivesonthecon
ceptofproperty
Fromaphilosophicalpointofview,themoralground
ingsforpropertyphenomenoncanroughlybeexplained
fromtwodifferentperspectives:theempiricistandthe
rationalisttraditions.Wewillsummarizeherehowtwoof
themostcommonlycontrastedphilosopherstreattheidea
ofproperty:DavidHumefromafundamentalempiricist
pointofviewandImmanuelKant,whotreatsitaccording
tohisownveryinfluentialkindofrationalism(transcen
dentalidealism).Aninsightintotheirdifferentviews
enablesustobetterunderstandtherelevanceofdistin
guishingbetweenthelegalconceptofpropertyfromthe
possessorsandthethirdpartiespointofviewwhenmak
inglegalarguments,respectively.
ForHume,theideaofpropertyemergesfrombasic
humannecessitiestheverybasicneedsforeveryperson
tohaveastableanddurablerelationshiptofood,clothing
andlodging.Itisamatterofexpedient,practicalsocial
behavior.Inhisview,thelegalconceptofpropertyhasno
otherfoundationthanhumanexperienceandthehuman
constitution:i.e.howtosatisfyourselves,howtocreate
legalrightsoutofourpossessions.3Alternatively,inKants
view,theexistenceofthelegalconceptofpropertyis,in
principle,totallyindependentofhumanexperiencesand
thehumanconstitution.Itispurelyaderivationfromthe
categoricalimperativethesinglemoraldutythatallrules
forhumanactioncanbetracedbackto4:actonlyonthat
maximbywhichyoucanatthesametimewillthatitshould
becomeauniversallaw.5
Humesmethodisinductive.Theindividualishisfocal
pointthelegalruleisbasedoneverysinglepersonsneed
forstabilityinhispossessions.Kantsmethod,rather,is
3DavidHume,ATrea ti seofHumanNature.Edited, withananalyti
calindex,byL.A.SelbyBigge(secondeditionwithtextrevised
andvariantreadingsbyP.H.Nidditch,Oxford,1978).Hispointof
departureis:“Thisavidityalone,ofacquiringgoodsandposses
sionsforourselvesandournearestfriends,isinsatiable,perpetual,
universal,anddirectlydestructiveofsociety”(491–492).However,
heobserves“thatitwillbeformyinteresttoleaveanotherinthe
possessionofhisgoods,providedhewillactinthesamemanner
withregardstome”(490).Inthisway,manhasrealizedthatitisin
hisbestinterestto“leaveeveryoneinthepeaceableenjoymentof
whathemayacquirebyhisfortuneandindustry.Bythismeans,
everyoneknowswhathemaysafelypossess.”Humeemphasizes
thisasabasicneedforeveryhumanbeing,becausenot“onlythe
food,whichisrequirdforhissustenance,flieshissearchand
approach,oratleastrequireshislabourtobeproducd,buthe
mustbepossessdofcloathsandlodging,todefendhimagainst
theinjuriesoftheweather.”Throughexperience“theruleconcern
ingthestabilityofpossession”graduallywillevolveand
strengthen,and“thisexperienceassuresusstillmore,thatthe
senseofinteresthasbecomecommontoallourfellows,andgives
usaconfidenceofthefutureregularityoftheirconduct”(490).
Humepointsoutthateven“whensocietyhasbecomenumerous,
andhasencreasdtoatribeornationweneverfailtoobserve
theprejudicewereceive,eithermediatelyorimmediately,from
theinjusticeofothers”(499).Abletodrawonover250yearsof
accumulatedknowledge,itisremarkablehowlittlechangethere
istoacknowledgewhenoneoftheleadingscholarsofourtime
describesthesamephenomenon:“Thefirstloyaltyofeveryindi
vidualisnottothegroup,however,buttoitselfanditskin.With
increasingsocialintegrationandrelianceoncooperation,shared
interestsmusthaverisentothesurfacesothatthecommunityasa
wholebecameanissue.Thebiggeststepintheevolutionofhuman
moralitywasthemovefrominterpersonalrelationstoafocuson
thegreatergoodMostindividualshavemuchtoloseifthecom
munityweretofallapart,hencetheinterestinitsintegrityand
harmony”,FransdeWaal,Primatesandphilosophers.Howmoral
ityevolved(PrincetonandOxford,2006),53–54.

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