This bibliographical essay is David Hart’s introduction to Property and its Enemies. Part II. Is Ownership a Myth?, by Anthony de Jasay.

In this article Jasay takes on a number of philosophers who belong to what he calls the “ownership is a myth” school: J. Christman, L. Murphy and T. Nagel, and J. Waldron. These philosophers argue that property “rights” are just part of a “legal convention” and must be evaluated by “society” to determine whether they conform to notions of “social” and not individual justice. Jasay contrasts their views with the views of David Hume who provides a defense of individual property rights which are antecedent to the state and which evolve gradually through a long process of voluntary transactions.


David Hume, A Treatise Of Human Nature (1739, 2nd ed.) (Oxford University Press, 1978), Book III.

J. Christman, The Myth Of Property: Toward An Egalitarian Theory Of Ownership (Oxford University Press, 1995).

L. Murphy and T. Nagel, The Myth Of Ownership: Taxes And Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

J. Waldron, The Right To Private Property (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1988).


*David M. Hart is Director of the Online Library of Liberty Project.

For more articles by David M. Hart, see the Archive.