Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Spring semester begins this week at Stetson, where I am teaching both Real Property II and Local Government Law. In looking over my course materials for these classes, I was reminded of something that often comes up in my own research – the close relationship between theories of property and theories of government. For example, a liberal view of property that emphasizes individual rights and choices will clearly have implications about the role of government, the nature of government power, and where that power should reside. Likewise, a more communitarian view of property often will lead to very different conclusions about these same questions.
A current political battle here in Florida over a proposed constitutional amendment provides a practical illustration. Amendment 4, if enacted by the voters this coming November, would require that any local government desiring to adopt or amend a comprehensive land use plan first submit that plan or amendment to a voter referendum. Proponents of the amendment argue that it is necessary to curb unplanned growth, preserve quality of life, and ensure that growth occurs in accordance with community consensus. Opponents respond that the measure would harm individual property owners, slow down economic growth, and result in costly political campaigns and litigation.
This skirmish obviously raises questions about how property should be used and who should get to make that decision. But, on a deeper level, it forces one to think about what property is, what functions it should serve, who should receive its benefits, and how it relates to individual and community identities. Also at work are questions about the design of governmental institutions, the advantages and disadvantages of participatory democracy, and the provision of government services (such as land use regulation). The way in which one answers the “property” questions will inevitably influence one’s answers to the “government” questions, and vice versa.
I’m a fan of showing students how theory works itself out practically in the “real-world,” and it’s always nice to see interesting examples close to home, especially when those examples cover multiple subject areas.
P.S. A big thanks to Ben for allowing me the opportunity to do some guest blogging here at PropertyProf. I'm really looking forward to it!
[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting.]