Monday, October 5, 2009

Starbucks Cards, Seating Charts, and First Property RIghts

Thanks Ben for the introduction.  I am teaching Property for the first time this semester, but I feel like i have been here for a while.   I have tried some things this semester that I was not sure if they would work, but have been pleased with their results.  The first day, I took a trick from Thom Lambert (who blogs over at Truth on the Market), and held a swapping bazar of "things I cleared out of my office."  I traded an old copy of Friedman's History of American Law for a $10.00 Starbucks card; some various treatises that I had accumulated and which were out of date (only because the publisher had a more recent edition) for another $10.00 Starbucks card; and what turned out to be the most bargained for item of the day, a CD from the early 1990's titled Pornographiti, which went for (you guessed it) another $10.00 Starbucks card and a Subway Sub Club Card, which was half punched through.  (There is another post somewhere about why so many law students have $10.00 Starbucks cards). 

After the bartering was done, I asked the first student on my call list if there was anymore property in the room than when we first started.  Of course, he said no because no one has brought anything else in the room since we began, and I moved on to the next student. The answer, of course, was that there was new property in the room in the form of the value in the transaction we created. The point was getting them to see that property is (1) not just tangible things, but intangible as well (the secured transactions professor coming out in me); and (2) that property carries with it certain economic distinctions.  I also asked them to think about how property could be used to order our classroom environment.  For example, if in having a seating chart, what if I only allowed those that bartered with me to select their seat, but otherwise dictated where everyone should sit. Better yet, I could have allowed the bartering students to determine where individual people sit.  All in all, it was a nice introduction to some basic ordering concepts of property -- commodity and propriety we might say.  

What happened to the Starbucks cards, you might ask.  Well, since I don't drink coffee, I really had no problem parting emotionally with them --- besides I felt slightly conflicted for taking someone's valued coffee money for out of date treatises, and a Pornographiti CD.  However, I also felt that in order for the lesson to be truly understood and remembered later on, I could not just return them to the original owner.  So, I used them as a lesson in capture prior to Pierson v. Post.  You should see law students run after Starbucks cards when they learn that they have been deposited (apparently) into the card's natural environment.  But that's a tale for another day...    

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Posted by: Ben Barros | Oct 6, 2009 6:57:51 AM

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