Thoughts on economics and liberty

Reading list on property rights

Property rights are the key driver of prosperity. If you can't clearly own the fruits of your labour (and/or your inheritance) and exchange it with others, you won't create value. 

In DOF I've got an extensive discussion on property rights as a key institution of the free society.

This reading list is intended to support/ supplement my personal readings on property rights. 

When we think of property rights, we necessarily start with John Locke. Later thinkers who have contributed significantly to such analysis include Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, Harold Demsetz, Douglass North, Richard Posner and Oliver Williamson.

I have one issue with (most of) this literature, in relation to property rights in land. Most economic literature on property largely assumes the existence of the state and there is insufficient recognition of the fact that territory must exist and be well protected (and well-documented) before individual property rights in land can be properly protected. The issue of eminent domain is linked with this. No property rights theory can be complete without a theory of eminent domain and analysis of the powers of the state to acquire land.

In DOF I've separated the social contract into two key parts: one re: the fortress (defence of territory) and the other (conditional on the fortress), for other public goods (security, justice). Defence of territory is the SUPREME public good. On its existence depend all other possible rights. However, does defence of territory give the state unlimited rights? I don't think so.

A gem from Alchian and Desmsetz (1973):

private rights can be socially useful precisely because they encourage persons to take account of social costs. The identification of private rights with anti-social behavior is a doctrine as mischievous as it is popular.

America started with the world's first communist experiment: MUST VIEW!

(I think Obama should see this)


(There are many! more key articles/books that I need to include here. I'm publishing this nevertheless, as a starter, and will keep adding as time permits.)

Armen A. Alchian and Harold Demsetz, The Property Right Paradigm, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 33, No. 1, The Tasks of Economic History (Mar., 1973), pp. 16-27

H. Demsetz, "Toward a Theory of Property Rights," AEA Papers and Proceed¬ings, May 1967, pp. 253-257.

Barzel, Yoram, The Economic Analysis of Property Rights

Kantor, Shawn, Politics and Property Rights

Libecap, Gary, Contracting for Property Rights

Jeremy Waldron, The Right to Private Property

Klein, Daniel, Binyam Reja, Adrian Moore, Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit
Stephen R. Munzer, A Theory of Property (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law)

Nelson, Robert. 1997. Public Land, Private Rights. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

N. Mercuro, The Fundamental Interrelationships Between Government and Property

Bethell, Tom. 1998. The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages. New York: St. Martins Press

Daniel H. Cole The Meaning of Property Rights: Law versus Economics?

Epstein, Richard A. 2000. Liberty, Property, and the Law: Private and Common Property. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Pipes, Richard. 1999. Property and Freedom. New York: Vintage Books.

Saul Levmore Two Stories about the Evolution of Property Rights

S. Pejovich, The Economics of Property Rights: Towards a Theory of Comparative Systems (International Studies in Economics and Econometrics)

Harvey M. Jacobs, Who Owns America?: Social Conflict over Property Rights

Ilya Segal and Michael D. Whinston, Property Rights, August 7, 2010

Kathleen A. Carroll, Property Rights and Managerial Decisions: Comparative Theory and Policy

Timothy Sandefur, Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America

Enrico Colombatto, The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights.

Gary D. Libecap, Contracting for Property Rights (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

J. W. Harris, Property and Justice

Terry L. Anderson, Laura E. Huggins, Property Rights: A Practical Guide to Freedom and Prosperity (Hoover Institution Press Publication)

Siegan, Bernard H. 2001. Property Rights: From Magna Carta to the Fourteenth Amendment. New Brunswick, N.J.: Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation and Transaction Publishers.

My blog posts on property rights

Assured private property as the foundation of civilisation

Hindu Dharma and capitalist institutions #2: Property rights (including womens' property rights)

SOPA PIPA and the more fundamental issue – of intellectual property

No property rights in India – its most potent indicator of lack of freedom

Property rights and land acquisition

A debate with Demsetz

"The Problem of Social Cost: What Problem?" by Harold Demsetz

A debate with Harold Demsetz on second-hand smoke

Response from Harold Demsetz to the questions I raised

Eminent domain issue

Can eminent domain be used to take my property and give it to another private party?

The federal and state constitutions all say that property may only be condemned for "public use." For many years, governments applied that term to mean that property could be taken for things like roads, schools, and public buildings.

Then, courts allowed eminent domain to be used for private corporations that had public utilities, like electric companies and railroads. Starting in the 1950s, eminent domain became increasingly used for "slum clearance." Once an area was declared to be a slum or blighted, it could be cleared using eminent domain, and the property could often then be transferred to another private party. Increasingly, over the second half of the twentieth century, local governments have tried to use eminent domain in order to transfer land to other private parties. Whether and under what circumstances courts will allow this abuse of eminent domain is a matter of state law. Several states permit condemnations for economic development, but some do not. You will have to research and/or consult with a local lawyer to determine if the particular condemnation in your situation is legal. It may violate your state constitution. Also, sometimes agencies fail to comply with state statutes or required procedures, and such failures will also make the condemnation illegal. But even if you happen not to ultimately prevail in court, however, you still have morality and justice on your side. The purpose of the Castle Coalition is to give people the tools to prevent condemnations for the benefit of private parties without having to resort to legal proceedings.



Sanjeev Sabhlok

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