Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reich and the New Property

This is an awesome band. They play a style of angular punk, with a layered sound that comes out uncharacteristically clean for the amount of noise they make. Plus they use a lot of cowbell.

Amazingly, it's also a really cool law paper, 73 Yale L J 733. Our property reader notes the existence of the paper without mentioning how hostile Reich is to the displacement of traditional property rights by unsecured government largesse. He establishes that the government controls far more of the nation's institutional capital than the typical "oh, divide government expenditures by total GDP" 30% figure I usually cook up. Licenses, subsidies, use of scarce public resources, govt jobs, services, franchises...

Reich then notes how little protection these forms of "property" usually have, despite Goldberg v Kelly. You are entitled to a mere administrative hearing before your use of an airwave frequency is revoked, the government may not be able to take away your driver's license for absolutely no reason, and an administrator has to have just some form of standards for deciding when benefits may be revoked. While we have moved a ways from the principle of "in accepting public largesse, the recipient has consented to the provisions of the law under which the gratuity is bestowed", we are still a long ways from even the moderately weak protection from the political system afforded to property.

Interestingly, the new property of public largesse has allowed the government to enact salutary reforms against racism--holders of licenses may be barred from discrimination, for example. But--oops--the government has also used its political power to pursue communists (recipients of low-income housing can't be commies) and try to enforce social views (through its control of resale of airwave rights).

Hegelians say that "civilization" is the displacement of the private by the public. If only bureaucracies could be half as nice as the meanest nun in catholic school, this displacement might not be such a bad thing.


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