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Two Stories about the Evolution of Property Rights

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  • Levmore, Saul
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    Abstract

    This article shows that for virtually every move toward privatization or, moving in reverse, toward the reopening of access to property, there are conflicting explanations. One is transaction-cost based and optimistic, while the other implicates interest groups and arouses suspicions rather than celebrations. It will normally be difficult to know which explanation is more fitting. Examples range from highways, to intellectual property rights, to tennis courts, and then to licensing regimes. These examples draw attention to the possibility of an evolutionary path that runs from a commons to private property and then back to a commons. The normative ambiguity inherent in the dual stories about change infects most property right transformations, including the simplest cases of newly emerged property rights. The presence of competing stories creates problems for normative judgments about secure private property and about government intervention that opens or restricts access. Copyright 2002 by the University of Chicago.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Legal Studies.

    Volume (Year): 31 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: S421-51

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:31:y:2002:i:2:p:s421-51

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    Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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    Cited by:
    1. Livia Navone, 2013. "Property versus political holdouts: the case of the TGV rail line Lyon–Budapest in Italy," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 409-426, June.
    2. Giovanni B. Ramello, 2011. "Property Rights and Externalities: The Uneasy Case of Knowledge," ICER Working Papers 02-2011, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    3. Kim, Annette M., 2007. "North versus South: The Impact of Social Norms in the Market Pricing of Private Property Rights in Vietnam," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 2079-2095, December.
    4. Bertacchini, Enrico & Grazzini, Jakob & Vallino. Elena, 2013. "Emergence and Evolution of Property Rights: an Agent Based Perspective," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201340, University of Turin.
    5. Venn, Tyron J., 2007. "Economic implications of inalienable and communal native title: The case of Wik forestry in Australia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 131-142, October.

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