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Journal Article

A Theory of Inalienable Property Rights

David Andolfatto
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 110, No. 2 (April 2002), pp. 382-393
DOI: 10.1086/338742
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/338742
Page Count: 12
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A Theory of Inalienable Property Rights
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Abstract

Why do democratic societies often impose legal restrictions that render various assets or entitlements inalienable to the individual? The explanation proposed here is that these constraints arise as an institutional response against financial markets that, in a sense, work “too well.” That is, I demonstrate how a well‐functioning financial market can potentially work against a social policy designed to ensure a basic minimum standard of living for all types of individuals. Inalienable property rights and debt constraints emerge as a natural institutional response to the improvident tendencies of some members of society when a majority of individuals share a common distaste for neighborhood squalor.

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