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Lots of regulars this time, so I expect we'll get comfortable quickly.  Looking over the focal point ideas submitted, it's obvious that we will be considering the kinds of things that might be owned.  Yet let's not make that our only entry point into discussing the concept of Property:  after all, you should have an idea of what Property is in order to select examples, don't you?  In other words, what does it mean that something is "owned"?  Still another way to put it is:  let's start with the subtlest points we can imagine, and trust that we will be drawn towards the classic questions, but with an expanded perspective.

Some quotes:
"When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself a public property." – Thomas Jefferson
"Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being.  It is part of the earth man walks on.  It is not man." – Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which mean:  the right of property." – Ayn Rand
"Thieves respect property.  They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it." - G. K. Chesterton
"Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them." –Henry David Thoreau
The concept of property I would like us to start with is that of a right to exclude others from use of the thing owned.  This is the basis of intellectual property, pure and simple, and of real property (with the exception that the owner cannot exclude the government that grants the right).  It's also the principle cited by an upset child when he ends a game by taking his ball and going home. 

Dream home shoppers, net neutrality proponents, and libertarians rejoice!  However, your agenda will be best served by leading us from the (arguably) innate mine-not-yours stance via reasoned persuasion to, say, why enforcing property rights results in better maintenance of the environment.  At least, proceeding thus ought to distinguish our theme as a philosophical one rather than sociological. 

Our adjusted format is producing simultaneously more variety and focus, plus an enjoyable pacing.  Each short topic is represented by some focal point brought to the meeting by a participant.  Examples include:

  • a quote, originated by you or someone famous
  • a question (but not a "stumper")
  • a Top Ten List title
  • an under-a-minute story from a book, a film, or personal life
  • an invented obstacle or constraint, such as plays a part in most games

Please give some thought to how your focal point will serve to generate an inclusive discussion, one that stays tethered but doesn't land too quickly.  Feel free to run it by me via email.  There won't be time for every one to supply a focal point, but it's stimulating practice to think of one.

See you Tuesday, February 26!


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  • Jeff G

    A course on Property (and Liability) starts this week on Coursera: Don't think I'll be taking it, but it starts out looking at Locke and Bentham, which some of you may enjoy.

    February 5, 2014

  • Jay C.

    James, I will be most interested in hearing an elaboration of your last sentence. I just spent a couple of hours reading and listening to Alchian, and I eagerly await being convinced it is not just RWBS

    February 21, 2013

  • Jay C.

    Armory vs Delamirie (1722) 1 Strange 505

    The plaintiff being a chimney sweeper's boy found a jewel and carried it to the defendant's shop (who was a goldsmith) to know what it was, and delivered it into the hands of the apprentice, who under pretence of weighing it, took out the stones, and calling to the master to let him know it came to three halfpence, the master offered the boy the money, who refused to take it, and insisted to have the thing again; whereupon the apprentice delivered him back the socket without the stones. And now in trover against the master ...

    February 18, 2013

  • Ravi

    I would love to come, but I will be in India for a couple of weeks. I will definitely come there for the next one.

    February 17, 2013

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