Property Rights and Conservation - the missing theme of Laudato si'

Booth, Philip Mark (2017) Property Rights and Conservation - the missing theme of Laudato si'. Independent Review, 21 (3). pp. 1-20. ISSN 1086 1653

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The defense of private property has generally been a key principle of Catholic social teaching. In some senses, this defense reached its zenith in Rerum novarum published in 1891. Often described as the “workers’ encyclical,” this papal letter by Leo XIII also had a vigorous defense of private property grounded in natural law. In later Catholic teaching, the importance of the institution of private property has often been stressed, but it has also been qualified. Furthermore,in writing about environmental issues, not only has the importance of private property rarely been put forward as a solution to environmental problems, but it has also been hinted that private-property rights may be one of the causes of environmental problems and that limits must therefore be put on private property to prevent environmental degradation. This line of reasoning is interesting because in modern economics it is generally thought that better definition and enforcement of property rights are an important solution to environmental problems.Thus, despite the Catholic Church’s belief in the importance of private-property rights in general, the church seems to regard them as problematic in the very context that many modern economists see them as helpful. This paper examines the importance of private property in Catholic teaching. It then considers the qualifications that the church has made in relation to private property rights and their role in environmental protection. Finally, it presents some of the economic work that shows how the institution of private property is crucial for the protection of environmental resources and amenities. The paper concludes by making the case that the recent papal encyclical Laudato si’ would have been a more rounded document if it had considered the importance of private property for the protection of the environment. In the paper—explicitly so in the later sections—private property is broadly defined to include community control of property, too. This is something that Pope Francis is likely to be sympathetic with but that the encyclical does not explore systematically.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 320 Political science
300 Social sciences > 330 Economics
300 Social sciences > 333 Economics of land & energy
300 Social sciences > 340 Law
School/Department: School of Management and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Philip Booth
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2016 07:54
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2017 08:48


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