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Evaluating the Economic Performance of Property Systems

35 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2009 Last revised: 17 Nov 2009

James E. Bessen

Boston University - School of Law; Research on Innovation

Date Written: June 30, 2009


How should the economic performance of property systems be evaluated? Benefit-cost analysis is widely used to evaluate non-market based regulation when prices are not available. Market prices provide better information for property systems, but market prices are not necessarily socially optimal when property rights are imperfect. This paper discusses two practical approaches to evaluating the performance of property systems, one based on an analysis of institutional performance, the other based on measuring incentives. As an illustration, I show how these approaches might be used to evaluate the US patent system.

Keywords: property, markets, externalities, regulation

JEL Classification: K11, K42, L14, L51

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E., Evaluating the Economic Performance of Property Systems (June 30, 2009). Boston University School of Law Working Paper No. 09-30. Available at SSRN: or

James E. Bessen (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Research on Innovation ( email )

202 High Head Rd.
Harpswell, ME 04079
United States
617-531-2092 (Phone)

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