Thursday, June 24, 2004

Property Rights

Eric Rasmussen and Micha Ghertner responds to this post by Cass Sunstein on the topic of property rights.

As I see it:

The notion of property rights is not created by law (or rather, legislation if we allow ourself to remember the distinction made by Hayek between law and legislation). Propert did exist long before any government begun to "enforce" any rights. As H. Scott Gordon concluded:

Stable primitive cultures appear to have discovered the dangers of common property tenure and to have developed measures to protect their resources. Or if a more Darwinian explanation be preferred, we may say that only those primitive cultures have survived which succeeded in developing such institutions.

You can also read this article by Terry L. Anderson, Property Rights Among Native Americans. Or this book by Terry Anderson and Laura E. Huggins.

Gordon, H. Scott. 1954. The economic theory of a common property resource: The fishery.
Journal of Political Economy. 62(2): 124–142.