Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Gregory Alexander's (Cornell) latest book, Property and Human Flourishing (Oxford University Press), just hit the shelves. The book continues Greg's scholarship on progressive property by offering an alternative way of understanding the moral issues of private ownership, namely that human flourishing is property's moral foundation. As Greg has done in previous articles, he develops a theory that connects ownership and human flourishing with obligations. Greg asserts in the book that "[o]wners have obligations to members of the communities that enabled the owners to live flourishing lives by cultivating in their community members certain capabilities that are essential to leading a well-lived life. These obligations are rooted in the interdependence that exists between owners and their community members, and inherent in the human condition." Moreover, the book focuses on practical matters by discussing the implications for a wide variety of property issues including, but not limited to, expropriation, eviction, mortgage foreclosure, and homelessness.
This past January, Greg visited Tulane to give a faculty workshop, and I had the privilege of discussing with Greg Chapter Eight of his new book, titled "Of Buildings, Art, and Sperm: The Right to Destroy and the Duty to Preserve." In this chapter, Greg sought to reframe the discussion on the right to destroy in the context of human flourishing. Specifically, Greg examined three types of property where destruction (and the legal fallout thereafter) arises with some frequency: historic preservation, art, and embryos. My take away from reading the chapter was that regardless if one agrees or disagrees with how the Aristotelian notion of human flourishing is being applied to property law, Greg's writing challenges our basic thinking about property law and, more importantly, the goals that should underpin our property doctrines. As Hanoch Dagan (Tel-Aviv University) said about Property and Human Flourishing, the book "offers a progressive alternative to the dominant libertarian and welfarist conceptions of property. This is a major work, providing a comprehensive defense and a nuanced refinement of Alexander's innovative human flourishing theory of property."
Congratulations, Greg, on a great new piece of property law scholarship!