Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Debt is property, and, because of this, property law has a lot to say about how debts are resolved. Indeed, property law is deeply woven into the fabric of the bankruptcy process — a fact that has been woefully neglected by many scholars. The ability to provide debtors with relief and the ability of creditors to demand protections from discharge or diminished payments are both concepts that are intimately tied to property law. However, despite the doctrinal workings of property law in this context, from a theoretical standpoint property law has been underutilized. This is particularly true, as this Article asserts, in the public insolvency context — when governments go broke. Instead of being relegated to a mere mechanical (and normatively side-lined) status, I argue that property theory, particularly that arising out of the progressive property movement, has much to say about public debt crises and the resolution of the different interests at play between debtors and creditors. In order to contextualize this argument, I use the Puerto Rican debt crisis as a lens through which to understand how progressive property theory should be used to reform the way property law has been interpreted in the context of public debt emergencies.