Some Quick Bullets on Property Rights

This article briefly records some thoughts on property rights which I had as a result of class discussion, as well as a summary of the class method as it is not traditional lecture and I think highly of it.


  1. De facto property rights are the best economic explanation of property rights, precisely because they are the worst-case form of property rights.
    1. De facto is also a positive, as opposed to normative, explanation of property rights.
    2. De facto property rights are most consistent with economic explanation, and it allows for property rights in a stateless society.
    3. De facto property rights = might makes right. If I take the cup and no one can take it from me then I own it de facto.
    4. Imho, consistent with Machinery of Freedom and the Demsetz theory of property rights.
      1. Toward a theory of property right
      2. The exchange and enforcement of property rights
      3. Some aspects of property rights
    5. As in David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom, and Demsetz theory of property rights
      1. People will form rules of the game, or contextual rules of exchange (and language, law, etc) when there are gains from doing so
      2. Gains relative to what standard? Relative to total conflict, the de facto situation.
      3. Friedman proposes PDAs and arbitration agreements; it’s convincing, but social pressure, reputation, discipline of constant dealings suffice in many cases of small interpersonal exchange.
    6. By the Principle of Charity we should grant our opponents their best arguments
      1. If we assert normative property rights, the easy counter would be such rights are unjustified, unwarrented, and it’s also easy to make hypothetical stories about allocative inefficiencies arising from most specific normative rules.
      2. It’s more effectual to assert de facto rights where agents freely trade up by mutual agreement to only the most effectual rules
  2. Another thing from class: the process vs allocative paradigm of economics
    1. Agent-based modelling provides a process-oriented approach for computational intensive economics, sensitive to quantities and qualities in goods and agents.

Class method:

  1. Lecture half of class, take a break
  2. Second half students prepare questions for each other!
    1. Topic related to readings assigned by Professor.
    2. Professor curates the order of student questions.
    3. Students carry on naturally in discussion of each question until we want to move on.

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