8. How does law or the legal system protect or promote property rights?
The Constitution (and all amendments thereto) provides the basic structure for the Federal Government. It also delineates the rights of all US citizens. These rights can be viewed as a form of property that is protected against government infringement. The structural provisions of the Constitution allow for the establishment of a legal system that further protects and promotes individual rights. The federal, state, and local governments create and enforce laws that flow from these protections.
• Criminal Law – Seeks to protect the property of individuals from harm by others.
⁃ Example: Think of your state’s criminal statutes regarding theft and vandalism.
• Contract Law – Allows for the formalization of relationships between individuals.
⁃ Example: A breach of contract actions allows individuals to enforce the rights established through contract.
• Tort Law – Allows for the remediation of or recover for harm to property suffered due to the actions or inactions of others.
⁃ Example: Individuals can sue others for intentionally or negligently harming them or their property.
• Property Law – Allows for the recognition of ownership rights. Also, the legal system affects property rights through the recognition of business entities. Business entities are organizational forms that have an existence separate and independent from the owners or employees of the entity. Allowing the formation of entities to carry on commercial activity has a wealth-spreading effect that allows individuals to more effectively undertake commercial activity.
• Discussion: Can you think of specific examples of how executive actions, criminal laws, tort laws, contract laws, or laws of business entities serve to protect property rights?