Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Singer and Mulvaney on Homelessness, Eviction, and Democratic Values (A Tribute to Andre van der Walt)

AndreFriends of the blog will no doubt remember the untimely passing of Andre van der Walt, the South African Research Chair in Property Law and a Distinguished Professor of Law at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Andre was a champion of progressive theories of property, and he made major contributions to South African constitutional property rights law and educated many generations of lawyers and property scholars. In his honor, Joe Singer (Harvard) and Tim Mulvaney (Texas A&M) recently posted an article titled Move Along to Where? Property in Service of Democracy on SSRN. The piece is a tribute to Andre, and the abstract is as follows:

When the police in cities that prohibit sleeping in public spaces command that people on the streets “move along,” advocacy groups for the homeless have started a campaign that pointedly asks “move along to where?” This question seeks to highlight the reality that homeless persons are being subjected to an order with which they have no capacity to comply. In this instance, the state is defining and rigidly enforcing property rights without concern for the consequences of its doing so; it apparently is only after this exercise in definition and enforcement that the state can move to respect fundamental democratic values—such as dignity and equality—in the space that remains.

Inspired by the work of André van der Walt, we here present the alternate thesis that property exists in service of the values that characterize our democracy. We advance this thesis through the lens of two stories of eviction—the leading cause of homelessness in the U.S.—in which our democratic values seemingly and, in our view, unacceptably are taking a backseat to property.

This is an excellent and very timely article (which I've had the pleasure of listening to the authors present recently). A truly fitting tribute to Andre. To view Andre's many excellent books, articles, chapters, and other contributions, click here. Excellent work to both Joe and Tim.

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