I argue that ownership’s political foundations account for its internal limits. Ownership confers the authority to answer what I call the Basic Question—what constitutes a worthwhile use of a thing. This authority is required to overcome twin problems of standing and coordination in a state of nature. We all have an interest in coordinating our uses of things (to avoid waste and conflict), but each of us faces a moral duty to forbear from imposing his answer to the Basic Question on others. A system of private property overcomes this dilemma, but its political foundations also give rise to constraints of legitimacy. Owners are charged with making decisions about things, but this authority does not extend to using a resource to gratify spite or gain leverage for some further end. These are not answers to the Basic Question, but rather efforts to use the position of ownership just in order to dominate others. When owners exceed their authority in this way, they abuse their right.
This Note employs an economic framework to show how these retention options fall short of Chapter 7’s policy goals: a “fresh start” for debtors, adequately protected interests for secured creditors, and national uniformity of bankruptcy law. After illustrating the shortcomings of the status quo, this Note argues that enacting a statutory ride-through provision—a successor to an option available in five circuit courts of appeals before 2005—would better accord with the principles and policy underlying bankruptcy law.