On what basis are individuals able to acquire property or enter into contracts? Professor Richard Epstein of NYU School of Law argues that the principle of self-ownership underlies the basis of other rights and that any alternative to self-ownership is unthinkable. He also discusses how the harm principle deals with the scope of freedom that autonomous individuals have one to another.

Professor Epstein, in this series on the Common Law, provides an alternative to the conventional view that property rights are arbitrarily created by the state, and therefore can be changed at will by the state.  A few simple rules, he argues, are universal principles of social organization, consistent across time and culture, which form the basis of social gains.

Professor Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.