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Restoring the Commons: Toward a New Interpretation of Locke’s Theory of Property


  • Rebecca P. Judge


John Locke’s theory of property, described in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, exerts a strong but often unacknowledged influence on environmental economics, providing justification for many of our discipline’s norms and practices. This paper examines how Locke’s Enlightenment-era thesis has informed our understanding of the relation of the individual and the state to environmental amenities. While Locke has been used to justify a libertarian view that treats any form of environmental regulation as a ‘‘taking,’’ elements of Locke’s original argument can be understood to subject individual rights claims to constraints requiring intra- and intergenerational sufficiency and sustainability.

Suggested Citation

  • Rebecca P. Judge, 2002. "Restoring the Commons: Toward a New Interpretation of Locke’s Theory of Property," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 78(3), pages 331-338.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:78:y:2002:i:3:p:331-338

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Moulin, Herve & Roemer, John, 1989. "Public Ownership of the External World and Private Ownership of Self," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 347-367, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation


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