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On Private Property: Finding Common Ground on the Ownership of Land [Kindle Edition]

Eric Freyfogle
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Urban sprawl. Disappearing wetlands. Historic preservation. Eminent domain. These and related land-use issues have put private-property rights on the public agenda in a contentious, visible way. Proponents of "property rights" statutes and ballot measures claim that governments too often invade private rights, imposing heavy burdens without paying fair compensation. Meanwhile, environmental and historic-preservation advocates press for yet more land-use restrictions designed to address a suite of environmental challenges.

In this provocative book, legal scholar and conservationist Eric T. Freyfogle presents the private-property debate in a surprising new light while suggesting how we can both respect private property and achieve communal goals. Our chief problem, Freyfogle contends, is that we have not taken time to study this cherished institution, to recover its complexity, and to get beyond bumper sticker debates. We fail to see how the rights of neighboring landowners are intertwined. We overlook how property both expands and contracts individual liberty. And we've forgotten how private rights need to evolve over time to serve contemporary needs.

In On Private Property, Freyfogle shows sympathy for the allegations of the property-rights movement, yet he sees the movement itself as distorting the institution of private ownership and disconnecting it from its long-standing ties to community welfare. Even more controversially, Freyfogle criticizes the land conservation movement for its indiscriminate support of payments to landowners to use their lands well. Payment programs, he complains, cut short a much-needed debate about the kinds of development rights landowners ought to hold and about the prerogative of landowners to alter lands in ways that bring ecological decline. In conclusion, he brings together his provocative ideas in an intriguing Landowner Bill of Rights—far different from property-rights measures now being debated.

Freyfogle's wide-ranging inquiry offers fresh insights for every reader. The result is a book of originality and moral force, informed by history, ethics, and environmental awareness. Engaging and accessible, On Private Property is a unique and vital contribution to a fundamental contemporary issue.

Editorial Reviews


Freyfogle's new book, which probably should have been titled Roll Over, John Locke, is just what the public debate over property rights needs: straight talk, and an invitation to open a conversation about the real issues.—Joseph L. Sax, author of Playing Darts with a Rembrandt: Public and Private Rights in Cultural Treasures

"In a work that eschews easy slogans, Eric Freyfogle proves the truth about American property rights-that original intent, early court opinions, and the realities of modern society all mandate that ownership brings with it weighty but reasonable responsibilities to the larger community. This beautifully articulated book, at once bold and thoughtful, is bound to become a classic in American constitutional and property law."—Charles Wilkinson, author of Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West

"Packed cover-to-cover with well-reasoned arguments that take both public and private needs into account, On Private Property is a welcome contribution to an ongoing dispute."—Midwest Book Review

"A fresh perspective and penetrating legal and historical analysis of an issue that will continue to be in the forefront of land policy in the twenty-first century."—Anthony Flint, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, author of This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America

About the Author

Eric T. Freyfogle has written widely on the many links between people and land, and on the need for a more land-sensitive culture, including the recent books Agrarianism and the Good Society and Why Conservation Is Failing and How It Can Regain Ground. His nonlegal writings have appeared in various publications, from Conservation Biology, Wild Earth, and Orion to Dissent and The New York Times. Freyfogle has appeared widely as a speaker, not just at academic gatherings, but at land-related conferences sponsored by major federal agencies, major national conservation organizations, and such professional organizations as the Society of American Foresters, the George Wright Society, and the Natural Areas Association. In January 2004 he was appointed editor of the Leopold Conservation Papers Project, an effort to edit and publish in thematic volumes the conservation writings of Aldo Leopold. He teaches at the University of Illinois College of Law at Urbana-Champaign.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1527 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (November 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,455,950 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Written by published author and Professor of Law Eric T. Freyfogle, On Private Property: Finding Common Ground in the Ownership of Land is a thoughtful look at the recurring dilemma of the private property debate. When is eminent domain justified, and when is urban sprawl too much? When should land be put in public trust to preserve natural life, and when should private property owners' rights prevail? Though Freyfogle acknowledges the concerns of the property-rights movement, he warns that the movement is at risk of distorting the institution of private ownership itself, by completely severing its connections to responsible community welfare. Criticizing the land conservation movement for its excessive and indiscriminate payments to landowners, allegedly to use their lands well, and stressing that the landowner's responsibility not to alter lands in ways that bring ecological decline should not be overlooked, Freyfogle suggests a Landowner Bill of Rights that is vastly different from current property-rights measures being debated. Packed cover to cover with well-reasoned arguments that take both public and private needs into account, On Private Party is a welcome contribution to an ongoing dispute.
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