A Theory of Property

85 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2004 Last revised: 31 Jul 2009

See all articles by Abraham Bell

Abraham Bell

Bar Ilan University - Faculty of Law; University of San Diego School of Law

Gideon Parchomovsky

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: 2005


Property law has eluded both a consistent definition and a unified conceptual framework. Instrumentalists insist that property is nothing more than default contract rules. Conceptualists proclaim the primacy of in rem conceptualization and of specially privileged rights such as the rights to exclude. Others think of property as an infinitely malleable bundle of sticks.

We demonstrate that any comprehensive property theory must address four legal questions: (1) What things are protected by property law; (2) vis-a-vis whom; (3) with what rights; and (4) enforced by what mechanism. Then, we introduce a value-oriented theory to show how property law answers these questions by recognizing and helping to create stable relationships between persons and assets, allowing owners to extract otherwise unavailable utility.

Our approach illuminates recent property developments, and demonstrates the need for reform. Additionally, we demonstrate the need for property occasionally to yield to other legal fields like secured transactions.

Keywords: Property

Suggested Citation

Bell, Abraham and Parchomovsky, Gideon, A Theory of Property (2005). Cornell Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 531, 2005; U of Penn, Inst. for Law & Econ Research Paper 04-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=509862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.509862

Abraham Bell

Bar Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900

HOME PAGE: http://law.biu.ac.il/English/segelE.php#

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

Gideon Parchomovsky (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-1603 (Phone)

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