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'Are my genes 'mine'? Genetic information and the idea of ownership' Jonathan Montgomery Genethics Club Southampton 9 October 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "'Are my genes 'mine'? Genetic information and the idea of ownership' Jonathan Montgomery Genethics Club Southampton 9 October 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 'Are my genes 'mine'? Genetic information and the idea of ownership' Jonathan Montgomery Genethics Club Southampton 9 October 2007

2 Property & Ownership Slogan or Shorthand? Conclusion or Question? Thing or Relationship?

3 Ownership Concept –Bundle of rights Justifications –Personality, labour, common good, efficiency Limitations –Harmful use (knives), shared exploitation (taxation) Types –Private, public & common

4 Components of Ownership PROPERTY Control Use Benefit From TransferExcludeResponsibility

5 Observations Components can be split Not all equally attractive –Can an owner destroy? Limitations –From underlying justifications –From rights and freedoms of others –From ‘common good’ PROPERTY Control Use Benefit From TransferExcludeResponsibility

6 Functions of Property Allocation of resources –Incentivise production & exchange –Avoid anarchy Promotion of human well-being –Facilitates self-development, psychology of value Freedom and power

7 John Locke: An individualist view Property in your own body Property in the product of your labours PROVIDED that "enough, and as good, left in common for others" cf Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia

8 A Natural Law Approach: Aquinas Natural law requires some property to support production, clarify responsibility and preserve peace (requires all content with their share) Human law determines who owns what and how Must be consistent with obligations of charity & claims of those who are starving

9 A Natural Law Approach: Finnis Efficiency is in the common good –Property is an instrumental not intrinsic good –Excesses should be redistributed –Owners not entitled to waste property but should invest to increase productivity –Obligations of charity –Use to provide employment

10 A Marxist Perspective Humanity as creative Property as alienation –Separates creator from creation (commodification) –Enables owners to expropriate the labours of others (‘property as theft’) Profit as ‘surplus value’ –Capitalists get the surplus from the work of others

11 Private Property Tends towards unitary idea of ownership Emphasises exclusionary rights –Especially against the state Link to autonomy –Property as the precondition of autonomous action Emphasises legitimacy of historical entitlement –Resistant to claims of distributive justice

12 Common Property Emphasises multiple equivalent usage Rejects exclusivity –Link with inexhaustibility? –Does not really need concept of ownership Examples –Common land, air Human Genome?

13 Public/Collective Property Emphasises mutual benefit Common good requires ownership is allocated (unequal access) Trust model –Exclusivity in the common interest –Use of powers for common good

14 Why are my genes mine? Protection of personality, privacy, identity –Is property the most helpful concept? Whose labour produces genetic information? The Lockean proviso – enough and as good… Exploitation rights –Is historical entitlement accident or desert? –What increases efficiency?

15 How are my genes ‘mine’? Responsibility for my property –limiting harm (most systems, but what counts?) –Promoting good (limitations of libertarianism) Degrees of exclusionary rights Sharing, transferring, destroying?


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