11.467J | Spring 2005 | Graduate

Property Rights in Transition

Lecture Notes

The lecture questions are meant to prepare the student for the class discussions, and follow from the readings.

LEC # TOPICS lecture questions
1 Introduction to Property Rights Revolutions Around the Globe What have been some of the global, historical shifts in property regimes? Why do we care about these shifts? What puzzles do they present? What did some of the early thinkers of property rights have to contribute to our understanding and who are their modern-day counterparts?
2 The Naturalness and Unnaturalness of Property: How Do Things Become Owned? What do you own? How do you know you own it? Could others think they own part of it? Is possession and ownership essential to human nature or is it primarily culturally relative?
3 Commodification: What properties Can Be Bought and Sold?

Guest Speaker: Carol Rose

Is there a difference between fungible goods and commodities? What things should never be bought and sold? Why? What might be some of the unintended pitfalls of non-market distribution systems?
4 Property Rights Doctrine in Developing Countries: Convergence or Diversity? What have been the justifications or objectives for introducing a system of private property rights? How did it come about in the west? Why is it uncommon in the developing world? Why have titling programs been largely ineffective in the past?
5 Economic Perspectives of Property Rights Think of something you could either own or rent. Why might you want to own it? Why would you want to rent it instead? What are some of the similarities of the economist’s approach to property rights?
6 Legal Frameworks for a Market Economy: Property Rights or Contracts? These legal scholars are concerned with precise definitions of property rights. In what ways does it make a difference what our definition is to policy outcomes? Is in rem law a type of social norm?
7 Property Rights Without Law: Alternative Institutions What kind of sanctions can enforce norms about property? What factors are key to their effective implementation?
8 Property Rights in Action: Empirical Evidence Why do formal and informal property rights co-exist? Compare and contrast the cases of Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta. What are the tradeoffs between clear and muddy rules? Is the duality something we should try to get rid of?
9 Property Rights As a Social Construction: Why and How Do They Change? Using the case of Vietnam, how do theories of institutional change help to explain why Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have evolved different terms for property rights and why the market values formal and informal rights differently?
10 The Tragedy and the Comedy of the Commons: Individual Private Ownership Versus Other Forms How might private property rights solve externality problems? How might it not? How does the spatiality of externalities impact a market solution? How does Ostrom’s model provide another solution? How does it not?
11 The Politics and Social Conflict Over Property Rights What exactly has transitioned in transition economies? Who has lost out in the transition to private property rights? How is the US’ private property rights movement similar and different to what is happening in these countries?
12 Takings and Givings