PhilSci Archive

On Property Theory

Ellerman, David (2014) On Property Theory. [Preprint]

PDF (Accepted for publication in Sept. 2014 in Journal of Economic Issues)
OnPropertyTheory.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (114kB)


A theory of property needs to give an account of the whole life-cycle of a property right: how it is initiated, transferred, and terminated. Economics has focused on the transfers in the market and has almost completely neglected the question of the initiation and termination of property in normal production and consumption (not in some original state or in the transition from common to private property). The institutional mechanism for the normal initiation and termination of property is an invisible-hand function of the market, the market mechanism of appropriation. Does this mechanism satisfy an appropriate normative principle? The standard normative juridical principle is to assign or impute legal responsibility according to de facto responsibility. It is given a historical tag of being "Lockean" but the basis is contemporary jurisprudence, not historical exegesis. Then the fundamental theorem of the property mechanism is proven which shows that if "Hume's conditions" (no transfers without consent and all contracts fulfilled) are satisfied, then the market automatically satisfies the Lockean responsibility principle, i.e., "Hume implies Locke." As a major application, the results in their contrapositive form, "Not Locke implies Not Hume," are applied to a market economy based on the employment contract. It is shown the production based on the employment contract violates the Lockean principle (all who work in an employment enterprise are de facto responsible for the positive and negative results) and thus Hume's conditions must also be violated in the marketplace (de facto responsible human action cannot be transferred from one person to another—as is readily recognized when and employer and employee together commit a crime).

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: labor theory of property, Lockean property rights, appropriation, Hume Implies Locke Theorem
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Ethical Issues
Depositing User: David Ellerman
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2014 15:53
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2014 15:53
Item ID: 10214
Official URL:
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Ethical Issues
Date: September 2014

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item