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A Good That TranscendsHow US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326085

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326252.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

Taking Property Seriously

Taking Property Seriously

(p.112) Five Taking Property Seriously
A Good That Transcends

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

Private property is a key social institution, important economically and politically as well as for the cultural values embedded in it. Efforts to promote better interactions with nature—to promote environmental health and better land-use planning—commonly collide with entrenched ideas about private property. This chapter urges reform advocates to take on the task of thinking seriously about private property rather than, as now common, accepting prevailing ideas and norms as somehow inevitable and timeless. In fact, the rules of ownership have changed significantly over time in terms of what can be owned and the powers and responsibilities of owners. The institution is best understood, not as a pillar of individual autonomy or economic liberalism, but as a highly flexible, morally complex institutional tool that society can and should tailor to promote the common good. Environmental reformers have been greatly remiss in not studying the institution with care and formulating new visions of responsible ownership. This failing is part of a larger inattention to the root cultural causes of abusive uses of nature, cultural flaws that are embedded in and strengthened by commonly embrace ownership ideas.

Keywords:   economic liberalism, environmental health, environmental reform, land-use planning, ownership, private property

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