Property Rules and Liability Rules, Once Again

73 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2005

See all articles by Keith N. Hylton

Keith N. Hylton

Boston University - School of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2005


Calabresi and Melamed published the seminal article on property rules and liability rules in 1972. In recent years new articles presenting rigorous analyses of bargaining incentives have overturned some of the fundamental claims of the Calabresi-Melamed analysis. In particular, the proposition that property rules are socially preferable to liability rules when transaction costs are low appears to be either no longer valid or severely weakened under the new analyses. This paper reexamines the property rule versus liability rule question in light of the contributions of the recent bargaining theory literature. In contrast to this literature, I find that the fundamental propositions of Calabresi-Melamed remain valid, and I extend the framework to provide a more detailed positive economic theory of common law rules. The key contribution of this paper is pointing out the importance of subjective valuations in the analysis of property and liability rules. This allows for a synthesis of Calabresi-Melamed and the bargaining theory literature within an expanded framework.

Keywords: economics of property and liability rules, property rules, liability rules, bargaining incentives, bargaining theory, Calabresi-Melamed propositions

JEL Classification: K13, K19, D00, K00, K12, K13, K14, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Hylton, Keith N., Property Rules and Liability Rules, Once Again (September 2005). Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 05-17. Available at SSRN: or

Keith N. Hylton (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-8959 (Phone)
617-353-3077 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics