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Property Rights Systems and the Rule of Law


Ronald A. Cass


Center for the Rule of Law; Cass & Associates, PC; Boston University School of Law


THE ELGAR COMPANION TO PROPERTY RIGHT ECONOMICS, Enrico Colombatto, ed., Edward Elgar Publications, 2003

Abstract:     
Property rights - rights to control, use, or transfer things
(broadly conceived) - though not readily distinguished from
other rights, comprise a category of rights that both strongly
benefit from clear and well-designed legal rules and often are
subject to "chiseling" from failures to follow legal rules or
from ex post alterations of the rules. Governance systems that
limit official discretion to impair property rights, that have
institutions and rules that provide clear definition to
property rights and that provide predictable and consistent
applications of those rights, will accord with the rule of law
and generally will also advance social welfare. Some systems
will depart quite evidently from this pattern, to the detriment of those societies, allowing too ready changes in law at the
discretion of too few officials, too unconstrained by law, as
the example of Zimbabwe illustrates. But differences between
the good and the bad will not be drawn along simple, discrete
lines, a point made by comparing the Zimbabwe example with the
United States. The systems most consistent with the rule of
law will not be able effectively to bar all changes in the law
or to eliminate official discretion. Instead, those systems
will limit the avenues for change and the ambit of discretion
in ways that make property more secure and impositions on it
more predictable without reference to the identity of the
individual official enforcing the law or the individual
property owners subject to it.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: rule of law, law and development, land reform, property rights

JEL Classification: K4, K0, K11

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Date posted: April 4, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Cass, Ronald A., Property Rights Systems and the Rule of Law. THE ELGAR COMPANION TO PROPERTY RIGHT ECONOMICS, Enrico Colombatto, ed., Edward Elgar Publications, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=392783 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.392783

Contact Information

Ronald A. Cass (Contact Author)
Center for the Rule of Law ( email )
9907 Georgetown Pike
Suite 148
Great Falls, VA 22066
United States
703-438-8832 (Phone)
Cass & Associates, PC ( email )
10560 Fox Forest Drive
Great Falls, VA 22066
United States
703-438-7590 (Phone)
703-438-7591 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.cassassociates.net
Boston University School of Law ( email )
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
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