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04 Apr

The Market as a Res Publica

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To bring out the conflict of images, consider the property conventions that establish the titles and rights of ownership. On the libertarian picture owning is a natural relationship — you might think of it as a relationship of possession and use — and the rules of property serve to affirm and protect the natural rights of owners.

On the republican picture, owning is a relationship that presupposes law, if only the inchoate law of informal custom. You do not own something — you do not have the freedom of an owner — just insofar as you can hang onto it, frightening off or driving off potential rivals. You own something only insofar as it is a matter of accepted convention that given the way you came to hold it — given public recognition of the title you have to the property — you enjoy public protection against those who would take it from you. It is yours to hold and enjoy in private; but it is yours in that sense only by grace of public convention.

Philip Pettit on the contrast between Libertarian and Republican views.
PoliticsInSpires: Taking Back the Economy: The market as a Res Publica.

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