Robert Lee Hale

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Robert Lee Hale (1884–1969) was an American lawyer and economist. He earned an economics degree at Harvard University, and then worked at Columbia University Law School. He is known as a legal realist, and his work focused particularly on the distributive impact of legal rules.


  • The systems advocated by professed upholders of laissez-faire are in reality permeated with coercive restrictions of individual freedom. ... What is the government doing when it “protects a property right”? Passively, it is abstaining from interference with the owner when he deals with the thing owned; actively, it is forcing the non-owner to desist from handling it, unless the owner consents. Yet Mr. Carver would have it that the government is merely preventing the non-owner from using force against the owner. This explanation is obviously at variance with the facts—for the non-owner is forbidden to handle the owner's property even where his handling of it involves no violence or force whatever. ... In protecting property the government is doing something quite apart from merely keeping the peace. It is exerting coercion wherever that is necessary to protect each owner, not merely from violence, but also from peaceful infringement of his sole right to enjoy the thing owned.
    • “Coercion and Distribution in a Supposedly Non-Coercive State,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Sep., 1923), pp. 470-494

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