Cato Unbound Forum on Property Rights Continues

The Cato Unbound forum on property rights and the state, which I blogged about on Monday, is continuing.

Lead author Daniel Klein has now replied to the response essays submitted by commentators David Friedman, Matthias Matthijs, and myself. He responds to Matthijs and Friedman here, here, and here.

Klein’s reply to me takes issue with my characterization of the modern left-liberal critique of property rights:

Ilya Somin speaks very nicely to a number of issues about rights and government policy, but he does not speak directly to the main idea of my essay, which is that vying systems of thought and semantics entail different configurations of ownership….

In my essay I am less concerned with refuting “creation and consent-based arguments for government control” than I am with showing how leftist talk about such things entails the collectivist configuration of ownership, or overlordship.

I posted a brief rejoinder:

There is only limited disagreement in this exchange between Daniel Klein and myself. We both favor strong protection for private property rights, and we both reject claims that the government should have largely unconstrained authority to override those rights because it supposedly “created” them or because the owners have consented to it.

However, I do continue to disagree with Daniel’s claim that “leftist talk about [property rights and government] entails the collectivist configuration of ownership, or overlordship.” I think that is true of some left-wing rhetoric about these issues, but by no means all or even most of it. As I pointed out in my original reply essay, most modern liberal rhetoric justifies government intervention on consequentialist grounds, not on the basis that government owns everything….

This is not to say that the “collectivist configuration” Daniel attacks is a straw man. Ever since Plato, a variety of prominent political theorists and legal scholars (not all of them leftist) have espoused just that. It is certainly an important idea whose serious weaknesses are worth pointing out…

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