Is the Right to Own Productive Private Property a Basic Liberty?

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John Rawls denies that ownership of productive private property is a basic liberty on a par with freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and so on. John Tomasi has recently challenged Rawls on this point; however a number of critics allege that Tomasi’s understanding of the basic liberties differs significantly from Rawls’s. This paper argues that Rawls’s own framework gives us reason to consider the right to own productive private property a basic liberty. If this argument is correct, then Rawls’s favored regime types—liberal socialism and property-owning democracy—are ruled out on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the appropriate respect for the basic liberties.