Sunday, March 25, 2012

Isn't It a Property Issue?

The highest paid hedge fund manager -- one person -- last year made the same as:

  • 17,000 pediatricians; or
  • 85,000 school teachers; or
  • 61,900,000 school meals for a year.

What is interesting to me is that our conception of property, by which I mean the appropriate subjects for discourse for those who dedicate their professional lives to teaching the law of property, no longer includes the facts above.

Today, it seems to me, discussion of the facts above is considered "political" rather than "legal" -- legal in this sense meaning a more precise, technocratic focus on legal doctrine.  In fact, I imagine a few readers of the facts above metaphorically rolling their eyes, and thinking somewhat disdainfully "Here it comes . . ."  It's not that you necessarily think the facts above are just or even optimal; it's just that this discussion doesn't belong here. 

My question is: why doesn't it belong here?

Historically, that hasn't always been the case.  Distribution of wealth and resources was considered very much a property issue in the convulsions that swept Europe between the 17th and 20th centuries, for example.  It's hard to imagine A Tale of Two Cities, for example, as a story devoid of property law issues.

Why has our focus narrowed?  What has changed?

Mark A. Edwards

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