May 22, 2012
Adverse Possession, Takings and the State
William Marra, Harvard Law School, has posted Adverse Possession, Takings, and the State on SSRN.
Here's the abstract:
Normally, the government may not seize private land without paying for that land. Yet it turns out that governmental bodies sometimes avail themselves of the laws of adverse possession, taking title to private land without paying the landowner. This phenomenon, largely ignored by the scholarly literature, raises two questions. First, should the government be allowed to adversely possess land in the same manner as private individuals? Second, when the government commits adverse possession, does this constitute a constitutional “taking” that requires the payment of just compensation? These two questions are of practical importance because they affect the resolution of numerous property claims, and they are of theoretical significance because they implicate both the appropriate scope of private property rights and the proper relationship between the individual and the state. Part I provides an introduction to adverse possession, and Part II studies the law of government adverse possession, detailing how nearly every jurisdiction permits the government to adversely possess private land in the same manner as private individuals. But as Part III demonstrates, government adverse possessors are not similarly situated to private adverse possessors, and the laws of adverse possession are built on a trio of assumptions — that the landowner has a property rule entitlement to her land, that the trespasser develops robust reliance interests, and that society’s primary interest is in quieting title — that do not necessarily hold when the government is the adverse possessor. Part IV concludes that because the current rules of adverse possession incentivize government trespass upon private land, special rules should apply to the government. When the government adverse possessor trespassed in good faith, a longer statute of limitations should apply; when the government trespassed in bad faith, it should be entirely denied the right to adverse possession. One quick fix to the problem, proposed by a federal court and endorsed by some commentators, is to call government adverse possession a constitutional taking and require the state to pay just compensation. Part V explains that the problem cannot so easily be wished away, and contends that the text of the Constitution, its history, and Supreme Court precedent all suggest that government adverse possession is not a taking. The solution to the problem presented by government adverse possession rests in righting property law, not distorting constitutional law.
By way of comparative comment:
- It is interesting how "takings" issues are such a significant part of constitutional discourse in the US, and in my nearer neighbour, Australia. New Zealand, without a formal written constitution, and without any "takings" provision, is in a different world in this sense. I have recently been exploring how the absence of this regime makes it easier to "propertise" resources (and also regulate them without having to worry about compensation issues) for a forthcoming article for the New Zealand Universities Law Review.
- Adverse possession was a part of my NZ Land Law course, as it remains part of US property courses. In New Zealand the law is statute based, and there would be very few adverse possession cases in New Zealand: one of the recent ones concerned a fairly isolated block of farm land with a fence in the wrong place (rather than the "squatter's rights" (of an abandoned house, for example) I imagined at law school).
- Marra hasn't steered away from takings.
- An empirical study of adverse possession (comparative, Commonwealth or otherwise) would seem to deserve attention.
May 01, 2012
One of the benefits of a blog (I am told) is the chance to introduce topics and ideas I know I'll never have the chance to turn into full articles. Here is the first - an abstract of the beginning of a response to Henry Smith's "Property as the Law of Things":
"Henry’s Myth; or, The Baby, the Bathwater, and the Bundle of Rights
Professor Smith’s recent article “Property as the Law of Things” (2011) 125 Harv L Rev [forthcoming] argues that the legal realists’ notion of property as a “bundle of rights” should no longer be considered useful to property lawyers and jurists. This paper argues otherwise, pointing out that (a) Smith has misrepresented the intellectual origins of the idea of property as a bundle of rights; (b) the “bundle” is more appropriately seen as a metaphor, rather than a description, and Smith has misrepresented this metaphor; (c) Smith’s new “modular architecture” metaphor bears more resemblance than Smith will admit to the idea of the bundle; and (d) there remain a number of examples for which the bundle of rights is a better analogy than modular architecture. This paper criticises the notion that the bundle of rights metaphor must give way to a modular architecture analogy as “Henry’s myth”, and concludes that we should not too easily abandon an enduring metaphor like the bundle of rights without being aware of what else might be lost: the bundle of rights remains something of a “baby” within the bathwater of property law theory."
Mostly, I think, it is just a good title. It begins from an assessment that Smith - and others - treat the "bundle" as a realist idea, when the phrase significantly pre-dates the realists and the legal realist movement. Further, a bundle is something we can picture quite well - "agenda setting" (as per Katz) or "modular architecture" less so. That said, the abstract is less nuanced than an article would be (as Smith's article is itself more nuanced than its title).
Comments welcome, but as I said, it's not likely to be something I have time to turn into a proper article, so as much as anything, I hope perhaps someone else can pick up on it.
March 27, 2012
Ziff on the Numerus Clausus Principle
Bruce Ziff (Alberta) has posted Yet Another Function for the Numerus Clausus Principle of Property Rights, and a Useful One at That on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
In recent years increased attention has been paid to the numerus clausus principle – the recognition of a limited, though not fully closed, set of property entitlements. An impressive number of rationales (eight by my tally) for that principle have already been offered. In this paper I claim that these arguments are incomplete. I argue that the presence of impediments to the termination of property rights suggests the need for caution in their initial recognition, because doctrinal mistakes cannot easily be corrected. On that view, numerus clausus serves as an instantiation of what is sometimes called the precautionary principle: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
March 15, 2012
Rule on Airspace and the Takings Clause
Troy A. Rule (Missouri) has posted Airspace and the Takings Clause on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Article argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s takings jurisprudence fails to account for instances when public entities restrict private airspace solely to keep it open for their own use. Many landowners rely on open space above adjacent land to preserve scenic views for their properties, to provide sunlight access for their rooftop solar panels, or to serve other uses that require no physical invasion of the neighboring space. Private citizens typically must purchase easements or covenants to prevent their neighbors from erecting trees or buildings that would interfere with these non-physical airspace uses. In contrast, public entities can often secure their non-physical uses of neighboring airspace without having to compensate neighbors by simply imposing height restrictions or other regulations on the space. The Supreme Court’s existing regulatory takings rules, which focus heavily on whether a challenged government action involves physical invasion of the claimant’s property or destroys all economically beneficial use of the property, fail to protect private landowners against these uncompensated takings of negative airspace easements. In recent years, regulations aimed at keeping private airspace open for specific government uses have threatened wind energy developments throughout the country and have even halted major construction projects near the Las Vegas Strip. This Article highlights several situations in which governments can impose height restrictions or other regulations as a way to effectively take negative airspace easements for their own benefit. The Article describes why current regulatory takings rules fail to adequately protect citizens against these situations and advocates a new rule capable of filling this gap in takings law. The new rule would clarify the Supreme Court’s takings jurisprudence as it relates to airspace and would promote more fair and efficient allocations of airspace rights between governments and private citizens.
[Comments are held for approval, so there may be some delay in posting]
March 12, 2012
Miller on Building Legal Neighborhoods
Stephen Miller (Idaho) has posted Building Legal Neighborhoods (Harvard Envtl Law Rev) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Political and legal tools have emerged since the Seventies, and especially in the last two decades, that provide political and legal power to neighborhoods. However, these tools are often used in an ad hoc fashion and there has been scant analysis of how these tools might work together effectively. This article seeks to explore this trend, and further argues that cities consciously overlay these neighborhood legal tools. This approach is referred to in the article as a de facto “legal neighborhood.” This approach does not call for secession of neighborhoods from cities or for the wholesale privatization of public functions, as have others that argue for neighborhood empowerment. Rather, the article asserts that the collective operation of these neighborhood tools is greater than the sum of their parts, providing a method for civic engagement at a level city-wide politicians feel comfortable serving and in which residents feel comfortable participating. The article also provides approaches for linking the neighborhood to city and regional affairs, and a history and theory of the concept of the neighborhood as an argument for the important role and function of neighborhoods in American life.
March 05, 2012
Harris on the Regulatory Takings in Canada
A Railway, a City, and the Public Regulation of Private Property: CPR v. City of Vancouver (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The doctrine of regulatory or constructive taking establishes limits on the public regulation of private property in much of the common law world. When public regulation becomes unduly onerous — so as, in effect, to take a property interest from a private owner — the public will be required to compensate the owner for its loss. In 2000, the City of Vancouver passed a by-law that limited the use of a century-old rail line to a public thoroughfare. The Canadian Pacific Railway, which owned the line, claimed the regulation amounted to a taking of its property for which the city should pay compensation. The case, which rose to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006, marked that court’s first engagement with the doctrine of regulatory taking (also known in Canada as de facto expropriation) in nearly twenty years. This chapter explores the intertwined histories of a railway company and a city that gave rise to CPR v. City of Vancouver. It then analyzes the court decisions and considers the role of courts in mediating the appropriate boundary between private property and public regulation in a jurisdiction where there is no constitutional protection for private property.
February 27, 2012
Levitin & Wachter on The Commercial Real Estate Bubble
Adam Levitin (Georgetown) and Susan Wachter (Wharton) have posted The Commercial Real Estate Bubble on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Two parallel real estate bubbles emerged in the United States between 2004 and 2008, one in residential real estate, the other in commercial real estate. The residential real estate bubble has received a great deal of popular, scholarly, and policy attention. The commercial real estate bubble, in contrast, has largely been ignored.
This Article explores the causes of the commercial real estate bubble. It shows that the commercial real estate price bubble was accompanied by a change in the source of commercial real estate financing. Starting in 1998, securitization became an increasingly significant part of commercial real estate financing. The commercial mortgage securitization market underwent a major shift in 2004, however, as the traditional buyers of subordinated commercial real estate debt were outbid by collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Savvy, sophisticated, experienced commercial mortgage securitization investors were thus replaced by investors who merely wanted “product” to securitize. The result was a noticeable decline in underwriting standards in commercial mortgage backed securities that contributed to the commercial real estate price bubble.
The commercial real estate bubble holds important lessons for understanding the residential real estate bubble. Unlike the residential market, there is almost no government involvement in commercial real estate. The existence of the parallel commercial real estate bubble presents a strong challenge to explanations of the residential bubble that focus on government affordable housing policy, the Community Reinvestment Act, and the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead, the changes in commercial real estate financing closely mirror changes in the residential real estate financing, which shifted from regulated government-sponsored securitization to unregulated private securitization. This indicates that changes in the securitization market contributed to the problems in both the commercial and residential real estate markets.
February 06, 2012
Schleicher on Land Use Procedure
City Unplanning on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Generations of scholarship on the political economy of zoning have tried to explain a world in which tony suburbs run by effective homeowner lobbies use zoning to keep out development, but big cities allow relatively untrammeled growth because of the political influence of developers. Further, this literature has assumed that, while zoning restrictions can cause "micro-misallocations" inside a metropolitan region, they cannot increase housing prices throughout a region because some of the many local governments in a region will allow development. But these theories have been overtaken by events. Over the past few decades, land use restrictions have driven up housing prices in the nation's richest and most productive regions, resulting in massive changes in where in America people live and reducing the growth rate of the economy. Further, as demand to live in them has increased, many of the nation's biggest cities have become responsible for substantial limits on development. Although developers are, in fact, among the most important players in city politics, we have not seen enough growth in the housing supply in many cities to keep prices from skyrocketing.
This paper seeks explain these changes with a story about big city land use that places the legal regime governing land use decisions at its center. Using the tools of positive political theory, I argue that, in the absence of strong local political parties, land use law sets the voting order in local legislatures, determining policy from potentially cycling preferences. Specifically, these laws create a peculiar procedure, a form of seriatim decision-making in which the intense preferences of local residents opposed to re-zonings are privileged against more weakly-held citywide preferences for an increased housing supply. Without a party leadership to organize deals and whip votes, legislatures cannot easily make deals for generally-beneficial legislation stick. Legislators, who may have preferences for building everywhere to not building anywhere, but stronger preferences for stopping construction in their districts, “defect” as a matter of course and building is restricted everywhere. Further, the seriatim nature of local land use procedure results in a large number of "downzonings," or reductions in the ability of landowners to build "as of right", as big developers do not have an incentive to fight these changes. The cost of moving amendments through the land use process means that small developers cannot overcome the burdens imposed by downzonings, thus limiting incremental growth in the housing stock.
Finally, the paper argues that, as land use procedure is the problem, procedural reform may provide a solution. Land use and international trade have similarly situated interest groups. Trade policy was radically changed, from a highly protectionist regime to a largely free trade one, by the introduction of procedural reforms like the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, adjustment assistance, and "safeguards" measures. The paper proposes changes to land use procedures that mimic these reforms. These changes would structure voting order and deal-making in local legislatures in a way that would create support for increases in the urban housing supply.
February 03, 2012
Ziff on the History of Caves and Property Rights Under the Earth
Bruce Ziff (Alberta) has posted The Great Onyx Cave Cases -- a Micro-History on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Controversies surrounding property rights to the Great Onyx Cave in Kentucky have given rise to two legendary decisions with enduring legal importance. The first of these, Edwards v. Sims (1929), is a leading authority on the extent of ownership rights below the surface of land. The second, Edwards v. Lee's Administrator (1936), concerns the appropriate measure of damages for trespass. Stripped to essentials, the facts that led to these two important rulings are quite straightforward: E discovered a cave beneath his surface, which he developed into a thriving tourist attraction. However, it turns out that approximately one-third of the cave passes below, well below, the surface of land owned by L, who had no ready means of access to the cave. Should title to the cave as a whole belong to the party who owns the mouth and who has taken possession? If not, how might one assess damages for trespass where E has benefited financially by the acts of trespass, but L has no practical use for his portion of the cave?
Of course, life is rarely as simple as that suggested by these sparse facts, and if one delves into the background of these famous cases -- a story that has been neglected over the years -- additional insights emerge. As it turns out, this dispute is one episode in a tempestuous time, the so-called 'cave wars' period, in which confrontations and lawsuits over cave rights and tourism in the region were commonplace. Moreover, the fight over Great Onyx Cave arose amid a campaign to acquire the caves in the region for a national park. As the clouds of the Depression formed, the park project must have held out hope for the local landowners. In addition, one member of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Marvel Mills Logan, played a significant and somewhat unconventional role in the Great Onyx Cave litigation and the events surrounding it. His place in the story is examined in detail.
February 02, 2012
Recent SSRN Downloads
In honor of the beginning of the month, here are the most downloaded property papers on SSRN over the last 60 days:
1. [452 downloads] Property Title Trouble in Non-Judicial Foreclosure States: The Ibanez Time Bomb?
Elizabeth Renuart (Albany)
2. [137 downloads] A Bundle Theorist Holds On to His Collection of Sticks
Stephen R. Munzer (UCLA)
4. [132 downloads] Wills for Everyone: Helping Individuals Opt Out of Intestacy
Reid K. Weisbord (Rutgers Newark)
6. [108 downloads] Two Cheers for the Bundle-of-Sticks Metaphor, Three Cheers for Merrill and Smith
Robert C. Ellickson (Yale)
7. [95 downloads] Saving Locke from Marx: The Labor Theory of Value in Intellectual Property Theory
Adam Mossoff (George Mason)
10. [50 downloads] One Strike and You're Out: Padilla Advisement About Public Housing Eligibility
Deirdre P. Brown (D.C.)
February 01, 2012
Hockett & Campbell Propose a Bridge Home Loan Assistance Program
Robert Hockett (Cornell) and Michael Campbell have posted The Home Mortgage Bridge Loan Assistance Act of 2012 on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Many homeowners now faced with the threat of foreclosure are only temporarily in distress owing to temporary income loss rooted in unemployment or underemployment. In consequence many foreclosures, along with their many harmful effects upon home prices as well as neighborhoods and families, can be avoided at very low cost through bridge loan assistance programs. Pennsylvania's highly successful HEMAP program, instituted in the early 1980s, is a conspicuous case in point. Our draft statute aims to replicate the benefits of HEMAP while also incorporating lessons learned in the several decades since HEMAP's implementation. The statute is to be considered by the legislature for adoption in the state of New York, and, we hope, might serve as a template for other state legislatures and Congress alike.
January 31, 2012
Jiang on Transfer on Death Deeds
Jennifer Jiang (UNC - student) has nice piece coming out in the UNC law review, entitled Transfer on Death Deeds: Benefit or Burden? A Proposal for Transfer on Death Deed Legislation in North Carolina. Here's the abstract:
Real property is a unique concept upon which ideas of property ownership and testator rights have been added to form a multifaceted spectrum of law. An individual’s right to own and devise real property is rooted in common law principles and secured by expectations of testamentary freedom. In an effort to protect these rights, owners execute wills and trusts to maintain control of the distribution of their property after death. Once a will has been validated, probate ensures that justice is served by overseeing title transfers, creditor payments, and the distribution of property to beneficiaries. For better or worse, probate has historically been a fixture in property law. But the idea of subjecting one’s relatives and friends to the probate process has prompted some property owners to choose nonprobate methods of transferring real property.
(HT: Al Brophy)
January 19, 2012
Mossoff on Locke’s Labor Theory and Intellectual Propert
Saving Locke from Marx: The Labor Theory of Value in Intellectual Property Theory (Social Philosophy & Policy) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The labor theory of value is fundamental to John Locke’s justification for property rights, but philosopher Edwin Hettinger argued in an oft-cited article that it fails to justify intellectual property rights. In making this critique, though, Hettinger redefined Locke’s theory into a theory about proportional physical labor creating economic value, just as Robert Nozick, G.A. Cohen and other philosophers have done. In response to this strawman attack, this article describes Locke’s labor theory of value and how Locke himself applied it to intellectual property rights. It does so by analyzing the actual text of the Second Treatise, including many forgotten or neglected sections, and by integrating Locke’s property theory within the context of his natural law ethical theory, as presented in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and in other works. In its proper context, Locke’s concept of labor refers to production, which is both an intellectual and physical activity. His concept of value refers to what serves the flourishing life of a rational being, which is a conception of the good that is more robust than merely physical status or economic wealth. Locke’s own text and philosophical arguments answer the absurdities imposed on him by Hettinger, Nozick, Cohen and others. Even more important, understanding his labor theory of value explains why Locke expressly approves of inventions in his property theory and why he explicitly argues that authors have property rights (copyrights) in their writings, which are arguments that are seemingly lost on his modern critics.
January 13, 2012
Owley on Exacted Conservation Easements
Exacted Conservation Easements: Emerging Concerns with Enforcement (Probate & Property) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is uncertain. Legislators, activists, and academics did not contemplate the proliferation of exacted conservation easements when enacting, advocating for, and writing about state conservation easement statutes. Despite this early oversight, exaction has become one of the most common ways that conservation easements come into being. Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is a threshold question of analysis for the continued use of the tool. Assessing the validity, and thus legal enforceability, of the exacted conservation easements involves examining the state’s conservation-easement statutes and state servitude law as well as the underlying permit scheme.
This article presents a roadmap for investigating the enforceability of exacted conservation easements and makes three suggestions for improvement. First, states should address exaction in their state conservation-easement acts. Second, drafters should increase the precision and detail of the agreements, acknowledging and explaining the nature of the exaction and the underlying permitting law. Third, to clarify the elements and uses of exacted conservation easements to both agencies and citizens, government agencies that use exacted conservation easements should promulgate regulations related to their use. Such regulations should include ensuring that permit issuers retain third-party right of enforcements. This will keep the permitting agency involved even if it is not the holder of the exacted conservation easement.
Uncertainty in enforceability of exacted conservation easements calls into question their use as a method of land conservation. Furthermore, the questionable validity of exacted conservation easements indicates that the permits relying upon such exactions could be ill advised and potentially in jeopardy.
January 11, 2012
Richardson on Virtual Property in Community Property States
Sally Richardson (Skadden) has posted How Community Property Jurisdictions Can Avoid Being Lost in Cyberspace (Louisiana Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Article serves as the second Article in a three-part series on the issues virtual property raises in community property regimes. Building on Classifying Virtual Property in Community Property Regimes: Are My Facebook Friends Earnings, Profits, Increases in Value, or Goodwill?, this Article examines how community property jurisdictions should govern virtual property once it has been classified as community property. In doing so, the Article discusses how virtual community property should be managed and explores when such property should fall subject to rules of equal management, joint management, or sole management. Further, the Article considers how virtual property should be divided and valued at the termination of a community.
January 06, 2012
Silbey on Entitlements to Parking Places on Snow-Filled Streets
Susan Silbey (M.I.T.) has posted J. Locke, Op. Cit.: Invocations of Law on Snowy Streets (Journal of Comparative Law, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Each winter in the northern cities of the United States, a familiar scene illustrates tacit and deeply sedimented, yet common invocations of law. After a heavy snow storm, one can see old chairs, traffic cones, milk crates, light weight tables, dead house plants, or other noticeably bulky objects in recently shoveled out parking spots on an otherwise snow-filled public street. "Before snowfalls, a parking space belongs to the one who occupies it: you leave it, you lose it. In wintertime Chicago, however," writes Fred McChesney in an economic analysis of this practice, "excavating one’s car [from the snow that fell on it] changes the system of property rights... The initial digger of the spot is given a limited monopoly for its use."
Although calculating an efficient duration for the monopoly preoccupies some analysts, my attention to the practice of claiming parking spots on snowy streets derives from an interest in understanding legal culture, more specifically, how practices of everyday life sustain the rule of law. The practice of holding shoveled-out parking spots on snow covered streets is not a recent invention in northern American cities, neither is it universal, nor without contest. It is, however, widespread, a subject of regular and increasing discussion in public forums, newspapers and internet media. It has been subject to legal regulation, although uneven law enforcement, and a topic of scholarly analysis. This essay uses the example of the chair in the shoveled out parking spot to illustrate how cultural analysis can document both the practices and systematicity of legal culture(s), in this way hoping to unravel some of the confusion characterizing discussions of legal culture as well as culture more generally. Following a more extended introduction, the section following both describes and interprets the practice of space-saving on snowy public streets, using the actors’ own accounts to construct an interpretation of what placing chairs in parking spots on snowy streets means to the participants. I follow this descriptive and interpretive work with a short discussion of what such cultural analysis brings to legal inquiry.
January 04, 2012
Fennell on Property's Lumpiness
Lee Anne Fennell (Chicago) has posted Lumpy Property on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
A bridge that only spans three-quarters of the distance across a chasm is useless, although far from costless. This standard, intuitive example of a lumpy or step good illustrates a point about discontinuities and complementarities that has broad, and mostly unexplored, significance for property law. In this essay, I explain how, why, and when property might be regarded as lumpy, and examine the implications of that lumpiness for doctrine and theory. Viewing property through the lens of lumpiness matters for several reasons. The first is descriptive accuracy. Property law is lumpy as a positive matter, filled with doctrines and approaches that deal with the world in discrete, hard-to-divide chunks. Second, an appreciation of lumpiness can inform optimal entitlement design. In evaluating the chunkiness that is built into property doctrines, we must ask whether and how it corresponds to - or contributes to - underlying discontinuities in the production or consumption of property. A third reason for attending to lumpiness is that many of property law’s most important conflicts can be usefully framed as “lump versus lump.” For example, an exercise of eminent domain may achieve a valuable spatial aggregation by splitting up some other aggregation, such as lengthy temporal attachments to the land, or a cohesive community that shares social capital. Recognizing the work that nonlinearities do in such stories can offer new traction on contested property issues. Lumpiness also informs ongoing theoretical debates that turn out to have a similar “lump versus lump” structure, including the usefulness of the “bundle of sticks” metaphor and the tension between exclusion and social obligation.
December 23, 2011
Outka on the Intersection of Land Use and Energy Policy
Uma Outka (Kansas) has posted The Energy-Land Use Nexus (Journal of Land Use & Envtl Law) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Symposium Essay explores the contours of the “energy-land use nexus” – the rich set of interrelationships between land use and energy production and consumption. This underexplored nexus encapsulates barriers and opportunities as the trajectory of U.S. energy policy tilts away from fossil fuels. The Essay argues that the energy-land use nexus provides a useful frame for approaching policy to minimize points of conflict between energy goals on the one hand and land conservation on the other.
December 19, 2011
Davidson on Pro-Development Norms in Property Law
Nestor Davidson (Fordham) has posted Sketches for a Hamiltonian Vernacular as a Social Function of Property (Fordham Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This symposium article examines the intersection between Léon Duguit’s concept of the social function of property, predicated on an affirmative duty on owners to put their property to productive use for the sake of social solidarity, and a tradition in the property law of the United States that similarly reflected this kind of pro-development norm. The article associates the impulse to associate ownership with a productivity oriented social function with certain Hamiltonian themes at the founding and in the early nineteenth-century salus populi tradition, and argues that the imperative remains a background norm in the United States that contrasts with classical liberal absolutism and certain strains of civic republican property norms.
December 16, 2011
Munzer on the Bundle of Sticks
Stephen Munzer (UCLA) has posted A Bundle Theorist Holds On to His Collection of Sticks (Econ J. Watch) on SSRN:
For nearly a century, most persons who have studied or written about property have conceived of it as a bundle of rights or, colloquially, as a bundle of sticks. In the mid 1990s, several philosophically minded academic lawyers questioned whether property should be thought of as a bundle at all. The impact of their work is reflected in Merrill and Smith (2007), a highly regarded and intellectually challenging casebook used in many U.S. law schools. Merrill and Smith emphasize that property is centrally a right to exclude and is generally held in rem, that is, is good against all the world. They find bundle theories of property defective for various reasons. This essay argues to the contrary. There are solid grounds for holding on to at least some bundle theories, which facilitate the careful analysis of the complexity of property. Moreover, Merrill and Smith’s criticisms are often misguided or ineffective. Lastly, their account gives an overly simple picture of property and views property law as a more unified subject than it actually is.