Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Off to Amsterdam

I was supposed to go to Amsterdam last Spring for the annual meeting of the Society for Environmental Law & Economics (which I'm hosting at the IU Maurer School of Law next month), but I had to cancel because of the impending move from Indy to B-town. So, I'm making up for that missed trip now. It's just a short trip - 4 days - for two functions. First, I'm on a dissertation defense committee for a Law & Econ PhD. The dissertation on the the allocation of responsibilities among different levels of government for climate policy, in the context of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is excellent. Second, I'm giving a public talk next Monday at the University of Groningen's on "Property Theory 2.0: Toward a Less 'Naive' Theory of Property Rights."

Here is the (inchoate) "provocation" for that talk (prepared especially for the use of three discussants):

Neoclassical theories of private property (e.g., Demsetz 1967 and Umbeck 1981) have rightly been labeled as “naïve” (e.g., by Eggertsson 1990 and Cole and Ostrom 2012) for presuming that private ownership is a universal, first-best solution to commons tragedies. Demsetz’s theory, for example, has given rise to especially pernicious theories of “free market environmentalism,” according to which all that is needed for optimal environmental protection is completely specified property rights in all natural goods (plus common-law remedies).
Part and parcel of the presumptions of naïve property rights theories is the equally naïve supposition that the old Roman law types of res privatae, res publicae, and res communes are completely coherent and useful for categorizing actually-existing property regimes. In fact, unalloid examples or pure private property or pure public property are rare, if they exist at all (outside the imaginations of some strict libertarians and Austrian economists). What one always finds instead are admixtures of public, private, and common rights (and obligations). For this reason and others, property theory has failed to keep up our empirical understanding of actually existing and inevitably mixed property systems. More work is needed –especially with respect to notions of public rights and obligations – to construct a new, more nuanced, and more accurate theory of property. Some of the groundwork for this has been laid with more recent jurisprudence on private property and Lin Ostrom’s work on common property regimes. Much less attention has been paid, however, to theories of public property (especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall). 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.