The right to private property is among the most fundamental in liberal theory. For many liberals the idea of the state is grounded in its role as a protector of private property. If the liberal state is justified by its ability to protect property, the modern welfare state is often justified by its ability to meet needs. According to a view commonly referred to as “welfarism,” the very fact that needs exist implies there is a moral obligation to meet them. In this Article I appeal to Rawlsian contractualist justification, including the “criterion of reciprocity,” in developing a third manner of thinking about the relationship between property and welfare. I argue that welfare rights are necessary conditions for justifying a role for the state in enforcing the “right to exclude,” a fundamental element of private ownership. My Article thus aims to use Rawls’ account of justification, outlined in his later works, to theorize the notion of property-owning democracy from Theory of Justice.
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