Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 217–235 | Cite as

Legal positivism and property rights: a critique of Hayek and Peczenik

  • Niclas BerggrenEmail author


Scholars such as Friedrich Hayek and Aleksander Peczenik have criticized legal positivism for undermining constitutionalism and the rule of law, an implication of which is weakened private property rights. This conclusion is far from evident. First, I contend that legal positivism is compatible with a strong support for property rights. Second, the causal relationship between legal positivism and the degree to which property rights are applied and protected is analyzed. The main arguments for a negative relationship—that legal positivism centralizes and politicizes legislation and that it makes the legal culture servile in relation to the political sphere—are considered unconvincing.


Legal positivism Property rights Constitutionalism Hayek Hart 

JEL Classifications

K11 O17 P14 P48 



The author is especially grateful for comments from Hartmut Kliemt but also for comments from Andreas Bergh, Anders Fogelklou, Alan Hamlin, Rolf Henriksson, Dan Johansson, Henrik Jordahl, Nils Karlson, the late Aleksander Peczenik, an anonymous referee and participants at the Public Choice Meetings in New Orleans 2006, as well as for financial support from the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Foundations and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Memorial Fund Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ratio InstituteStockholmSweden

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