A Modern Philosophy Of Property Rights

The history of cases involving Real estate law is a lush trove of interesting tales that interest not solely industry insiders like famed developer Isaac Toussie but normal folks with an interest in ethical issues also. For the law is supposed to reflect right and wrong and property provides several concrete applications anywhere for such otherwise high-minded notions that may not necessarily impact as immediately or as thoroughly on daily life.

Naturally, there aren’t many things as worth fighting for as land. Almost every society in human history has dealt with territory and property issues right at the heart of its culture. In our more civilized day, we resolve such disputes non-violently, but the passions that can be engendered are often no less intense. And thus the rich record of real estate law cases involves some of the most bizarre, amusing, or otherwise thought-provoking scenarios imaginable.

Should you find a gold ring that no one else claims, would it be legally yours? Essentially, it belongs to whoever owns the property upon which or wherein the gold ring is found.

What about if you bought property on an as-is basis but later noticed that you were lied to? In Alabama, it’s often a case of buyer beware, unless the misrepresentation involves things not immediately apparent which could threaten health or safety.

Or look at the case of someone whose property is marked by a tree line for a border, only to have that tree line grow thicker and extend over the years. Well, in Minnesota if that boundary is something everyone has agreed upon on a de facto basis for fifteen years, that boundary is then the legal boundary.

Of course, each of the cases cited can and will admit of numerous nuances that add up to the sort of complexity that keeps lawyers and judges employed full-time throughout the year, but the gist of them all is as stated. Interesting, no?

Indeed, it’s fascinating how such a hum-drum affair like the law can be so intellectual — and high-minded at that! For the law is ever but a hand-maiden to power — though it does appear that even such a servant should be noble of heart and mien, too.

Of course, if the Roberts Court has its way, we may well prove the old adage once more — but that is another discussion….

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