Property Law Culture: Public Law, Private Preferences & the Psychology of Expropriation

Cherie Metcalf (Queen's Faculty of Law)

Abstract: Recent work suggests that there may be a reciprocal relationship between law and non-legal social influences that arises through the role of law as a reference point in the definition of individual preferences and in the formation of social norms. The paper empirically tests the hypothesis that constitutional law provides such a reference point. Specifically, the paper investigates whether the presence of a constitutional right to property influences the extent to which the residents of a jurisdiction are opposed to government expropriation. To do so, I submit a survey to Canadians mirroring that administered in the US in Nadler & Diamond (2008). Canadians and Americans display very similar attitudes. There are some results that indicate a potential role for law as a reference point, but overall the similarity of responses suggests that this is not a strong determinant of individual attitudes.

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