Front Page Titles (by Subject) Private Property and Coercion - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Private Property and Coercion - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Private Property and Coercion
“Yours, Mine and Ours: Property Rights and Individual Liberty.” Ethics 87 (1977): 126–141.
Does individual liberty call for endorsing extensive private property rights or for restricting them? Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) believes that private property rights are required by the values of personal liberty or autonomy. In Lockean fashion, Nozick defends individuals in “a State of perfect Freedom to order their actions and persons as they think fit,” and argues that welfare state schemes of egalitarian, distributive justice coercively limit human liberty by abridging an individual's right to dispose of property. But, contra Nozick's position, private property may involve continuous coercive interference with the freedom of the majority. Furthermore, since the debate between “capitalist” and “socialist” notions of justice turns around the justification of private property rights, Nozick's unargued commitment to private property seems to beg many questions.
Nozick rejects many of the traditional justifications of private property such as the utilitarian, Lockean, and social contract arguments. He seems to base his case for private property on the individual's freedom to act. But property “entitlements” may actually restrict freedom and so undermine the supposed link between private property and individual liberty. A historical example of the coercive, liberty-limiting role of private property is the enclosure movement in England. Here the extension of private property rights diminished other citizens' previous rights and freedom to use large tracts of “commons” land. This reading of history recalls the famous Lockean proviso, wherein Locke limited the right to appropriate property with the proviso that there be “enough and as good left in common for others.”
Nozick, paradoxically, recognizes that the extension of private property may restrict certain liberties. His only escape seems to be trading off the loss of such liberties against the material gain for society as a whole. But why is liberty accorded primary importance in some cases and not in others? Nozick's concept of liberty in rejecting egalitarian redistribution appeals to the freedom of an owner to sell his property; the argument against private property appeals to “liberty” also, in the sense of “the freedoms to (nonexclusive) use of, and benefit from, a set of holdings.... “