Bundle-of-Sticks Notions in Legal and Economic Scholarship

Econ Journal Watch Symposium - Property: A Bundle of Rights, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 205-214, September 2011

George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-27

14 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2012  

Eric R. Claeys

George Mason University

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The phrase “bundle of rights” does not serve as an accurate conceptual definition of property. Nor has that phrase provided a helpful metaphor as used in Ronald Coase’s article “The Problem of Social Cost” (1960) and subsequent legal and economic scholarship. Coase’s usage portrays property rights as a collection of individualized permissions to use an asset, when in sound conceptual usage “property” signifies a domain of authority to decide how to use the asset. The “bundle” metaphor may be understood to state that an owner has a right to deploy his property in any specific manner fairly implied by his general rights of ownership. Although this metaphorical usage is helpful, it remains parasitic on a sound conceptual definition of property. Property is best conceived of as a right securing a normative interest in determining exclusively the use of an asset external to the person of the owner.

Keywords: Armen Alchian, covenant, Daniel Klein, economics, exclude, exclusion, exclusivity, Harold Demsetz, Henry Smith, Honoré, John Robinson, marketplace, Munzer, Penn Central, philosophy, Pigou, possession, private law theory, realism, Richard Posner, Thomas Merrill, transaction costs, way, Wesley Hohfeld

JEL Classification: A10, A12, K11

Suggested Citation

Claeys, Eric R., Bundle-of-Sticks Notions in Legal and Economic Scholarship (2011). Econ Journal Watch Symposium - Property: A Bundle of Rights, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 205-214, September 2011; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 12-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2014906

Eric R. Claeys (Contact Author)

George Mason University ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201
United States
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