This chapter examines the economics of property rights and property law. It shows how the economics of property rights can be used to understand fundamental features of property law and related extra-legal institutions. The chapter examines both the rationale for legal doctrine, and the effects of legal doctrine regarding the exercise, enforcement, and transfer of rights. It also examines various property rights regimes including open access, private ownership, common property, and state property. The guiding questions are: How are property rights established? What explains the variation in the types of property rights? What governs the use and transfer of rights? And, how are property rights enforced? In answering these questions we argue that property rights and property law can be best understood as a system of societal rules designed to maximize social wealth. They do this by creating incentives for people to maintain and invest in assets, which leads to specialization and trade.
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