Of Natural Threads and Legal Hoops: Bob Ellickson's Property Scholarship
12 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2009 Last revised: 6 Nov 2009
Date Written: March 30, 2009
This brief retrospective identifies several of the constant ideas that have run through Robert Ellickson's property scholarship over a very long period. One theme that has emerged ever more strongly is the idea that property has a natural character: left to themselves, people organize their properties in a relatively limited number of predictable mixes and matches of individual and common ownership. Ellickson's earlier work on social norms and ancient law focused on neighbors and communities, while his latest work extends this idea of a natural order to the household. Implicit in much of his writing is a skepticism about governmental intervention, with its disruption of the norms upon which a natural set of property relationships emerge. But at bottom, the Ellicksonian natural order itself can only exist in the context of a certain kind of limited, non-interventionist ideal type of government.
Keywords: Ellickson, property, norms
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation