In this paper I review, extend, and critique two contrasting approaches to the evolution of property rights. The legal literature on the subject is dominated by a conventional approach, which holds a virtual monopoly despite its many shortcomings, and the literature neglects an alternative approach, despite its many virtues (including, but not limited to, the virtue of responding to many of the conventional approach’s deficiencies). The paper provides an overview of both approaches, including a brief intellectual history of each – and should thus inform readers without specialized knowledge of the subject but nevertheless interested in it – and aims among other things to make the alternative approach salient, in particular because an integrated treatment that draws on a combination of the two approaches does more explanatory work than can either approach on its own.


Property Law and Real Estate

Date of this Version

November 2008