An Economic Analysis of 'Riding to Hounds': Revisited
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Pierson v. Post, an 1805 New York case, concerns the ownership of a dead fox; Post had organized a fox hunt and was pursuing a fox, when Pierson appeared and killed the animal. The rule established by the court in this case (awarding ownership to Pierson) has proven to be highly influential. This article undertakes an economic analysis of the issues raised by the case. The incentives for the killing of foxes created by the court's rule and the alternative rule, giving property rights to Post, advocated in a vigorous dissent by Justice Livingston are analyzed. The consequences for social welfare are derived under various circumstances; the formal approach leads to a number of new insights. Finally, the implications of this analysis for contemporary issues in property law are explored through an application to the phenomenon of cybersquatting (involving the ownership of Internet domain names).
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