11.467J | Spring 2005 | Graduate

Property Rights in Transition


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Seminar Description

The property rights revolution spreads across the globe as more things convert into private ownership. In fact, property rights have been dramatically transformed and reformed throughout the centuries because they are central to struggles around wealth, power, and social values. Now, more than ever, policymakers are faced with the challenge to understand the relationship between changing property relations and economic and political development.

How do things come to be owned? How do we as a society decide what can be owned, who can be owners, and what boundaries their rights have? Why and how do property rights regimes change? What will be the impact of new property rights? This graduate seminar explores these issues through economic, institutional, and legal perspectives. We will discuss these alternative frameworks with empirical cases about land, real estate, and natural resources from the United States, developing, and transition countries.

This seminar is intended to be an upper-level seminar for students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Students will be given the opportunity to engage with each other over the reading material and cases so advance preparation is essential. Students will pursue a research paper on a topic of their own choosing under the guidance of the professor and will present it at the end of the course to the seminar.

Seminar Logistics

Students should purchase the course text:

Ellickson, Robert C., Carol M. Rose, and Bruce A. Ackerman, eds. Perspectives on Property Law. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers, 2002. ISBN: 9780735528741.


MIT 11.493 or by permission of the instructor.


Students who take the seminar for credit must fulfill the following:

  • A term paper (or research) proposal:
    • A proposal of a topic must be submitted by session 5, including a few bibliographic suggestions.
    • An outline of the paper (or research proposal) must be submitted after session 7, including a tentative bibliography.
    • A final paper (or research proposal) of 15-20 double-spaced pages must be submitted by session 12, including a final bibliography.
  • Presentation: Students will make a short presentation of their papers or research proposal to the class at the end of the term, session 12.
  • Participation: Students are required to read the material assigned each week and participate in the discussions in the seminar. Students will sign up to do a short ten-minute presentation of the reading of one of the class session to get the day’s discussion started.


A Term Paper (or Research) Proposal 50%
Presentation 20%
Participation 30%