Social liability of property

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The social obligation of property (also social commitment of property ) describes in Germany a legal and socio-philosophical principle. In the constitutional purposes of the social restrictions limit the scope of the property in accordance with Art. 14 , para. 1 Basic Law (GG), a by intervention rights within the meaning of Art. 14, para. 2 GG constitutionally justified content or barriers provisions pronounce.

Against the background of a fundamental recognition of the institute of private property and a corresponding freedom of disposal , it is required that the use of property should not run counter to or benefit the common good .

In addition to being thematized in legal and social philosophy, the principle of social responsibility has found expression above all in Christian social teachings and in various constitutions .

Ancient / Stoic Philosophy

Traces of a social liability theory can already be found in antiquity, for example in Marcus Tullius Cicero 's De officiis , based on his occupation theory of property . According to Cicero, we should "focus on the common benefit and through mutual performance, through give and take, furthermore through specialist knowledge, assistance and material means to create a bond between people."

Legal and social philosophy

As a forerunner of an explicit social bond, the “ moral ” bond of property was propagated on various occasions in the 19th century . Thus, for instance in the philosophy of law of Friedrich Julius Stahl : "Property is but especially and primarily also the substance of the moral fulfillment of the duties of man."

Christian theology and social teaching

In the encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) Leo XIII quotes. Thomas Aquinas : “Man must not regard and treat external things as property, but as common good, in so far as he should understand himself easily when communicating them to those in need. That is why the apostle says: 'Command the rich of this world ... that they will gladly give and communicate.' "

In Quadragesimo anno (1931), Pius XI emphasizes that the income from the interaction of labor and capital must be made available to the general benefit.

In the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965, No. 69) of the Second Vatican Council, the principle is formulated as follows: “God has made the earth and everything it contains for the benefit of all people and peoples; therefore these created goods must be of the benefit of all in an equitable relationship; justice has the lead, and love goes hand in hand with it. (...) It is always important to pay attention to this general destination of goods. That is why a person who avails himself of these goods should not only regard the external things that he rightfully owns as his own personally, but must at the same time regard them as common goods in the sense that they are not only for him but also for others can be useful. "

German constitutional law and case law

In the Weimar Constitution of 1919 (Art. 153 Para. 3 WRV), social responsibility was reflected in the following: “Property obliges. Its use should at the same time serve the common good. "

In Art. 14 . Paragraph 2 Basic Law is: committed "property. Its use should also serve the public good."

In the relevant case law of the Federal Constitutional Court , in addition to the affirmation of property as an elementary basic right against the background of a liberal order, the social bond has been specified in various ways, also in the sense that not every property is subject to such a bond, but only that, the social one Have relevance. In addition, the Constitutional Court stipulated that regulations within the meaning of Article 14.2 of the Basic Law are not permissible solely on the basis of administrative acts and case law , but require legislation . Outside of existing legal obligations, the German Basic Law therefore does not derive any further obligations for owners.

The constitutional principle of social liability has developed a current reference, for example in the question of wealth tax or maximum taxation. According to a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, “on the one hand, the income from the assets is accessible to the common tax burden, and on the other hand, the beneficiary must retain a private income benefit. The wealth tax may therefore only be added to the other taxes on the income if the total tax burden ... remains close to half the division between private and public authorities ... "

Corporate social responsibility / stakeholder value

The principle of social responsibility in the context of the current economic ethical discussion on the subject of corporate social responsibility is in the light of broad and worldwide attention. As part of this concept, property in the form of a company is a social responsibility. The perception of this responsibility, in addition to the intention to make a profit and conformity to legal norms ( compliance ), should form a decisive yardstick for the management and orientation of the company. The dimension of social responsibility is also taken into account in the stakeholder value concept of corporate management, in contrast to a pure orientation on shareholder value . Critics of this perspective emphasize the social function of companies in the system of the market economy even without additional CSR measures.


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Cicero: De officiis , I22
  2. Art. 153 WRV
  3. BVerfG, judgment of March 10, 1981, Az. 1 BvR 92/71, BVerfGE 56, 249 , (260)
  4. Jochen Rozek, The distinction between property ties and expropriation, pp. 65–71
  5. BVerfG, decision of June 22, 1995, Az. 2 BvL 37/91, BVerfGE 93, 121 .