Friday, August 31, 2007
The proofs of Eric Freyfogle's On Private Property: Finding Common Ground on the Ownership of Land, forthcoming in November from Beacon, has just appeared in my mailbox. Beacon Press provides the following description:
Private property poses a great dilemma in American culture. We revere the institution and are quick to protect private-property rights, yet we are troubled when landowners cause harm to their neighbors and communities, especially when new development fuels sprawl and degrades the environment. Recent Supreme Court cases and new state laws around eminent domain have generated great controversy, and yet many people are unsure where they stand on this issue.
In this wide-ranging inquiry, law professor Eric Freyfogle explores the inner workings of the familiar but poorly understood institution of private property. He identifies the three threats it currently faces: government mismanagement, the recently reinvigorated property rights movement, and conservation groups' efforts to buy tracts of land in order to protect them. He then offers a solution in the middle ground between the extreme sides of these debates.
In On Private Property, Freyfogle gives glimpses of landownership's surprising past, revealing its complex links to liberty and ultimately showing why private property rights must remain consistent with a community's overall good. In conclusion, Freyfogle constructs piece by piece a provocative new vision of landownership, at once respectful of private interests yet responsive to communal needs.
It's a great combination of history--with chapters like "The Lost Right to Roam"--as well as contemporary areas of much contention--with chapters on "When We Should Pay" and a concluding chapter on "The Responsible Landowner: A Bill of Rights."
The search for common ground is a noble purpose. I think you will enjoy the book and I think it's destined for lots of class adoptions. And I hope to have a few more thoughts about this important book later.
Alfred L. Brophy