Current Projects

Whither Private Property? What Social and Legal Contestation in the U.S. and Europe Means for the Future of a Foundational Democratic and Market Institution, Our Cities, and Our Environment

Central to the American and French Revolutions was the idea that private property was essential for ordinary persons to have political freedom and for a market economy to become viable. Yet private property as invented evolved in response to changes in technology and social values. The beginning of the twentieth century saw the introduction of significant public interventions via land use controls. The rise of the modern environmental movement in the mid twentieth century suggested further evolution away from private property.

Parallel to the environmental movement a counter movement emerged arguing that the social revision of private property had swung too far. In the U.S. this involved substantial activities at all levels of government. In Europe an analogous set of activities began to emerge in the early 2000s. There are similarities and differences in how the issue is currently evolving; within Europe the populist turn in European politics has refocused attention on private property.

The project focuses on preparation of a book-length manuscript examining multiple aspects of this issue. It builds on prior published work, and as-yet unpublished research. It will assess and project how such contestation is likely to shape real conditions of urban and environmental sustainability.

The project builds on research that has been supported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the University of Wisconsin Center for European Studies, the University of Wisconsin Center for German and European Studies, the University of Wisconsin Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute, an individual residency from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio (Italy) Study Center, and two periods of sabbatical research.