Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Experiment Begins . . .

Well, I'm back from my last bit of vacation, and begin teaching Property I to my new group of 1ls tomorrow. 

As I wrote earlier in the summer, this year I want to put more emphasis on the political economy of property rights, so instead of starting with Johnson v. McIntosh or Pierson v. Post, I'm actually starting with . . . The Communist Manifesto (chapter two, specifically).  And excerpts from Michael Jensen's Freedom, Capitalism and Human Behavior.  Seriously.

I have no idea whether this will work so I'm a bit nervous, although honestly the change isn't that radical (so so speak): we'll be getting to Johnson on day 2.  But I'm hoping to introduce on Day 1 a theme that we will return to continually throughout the year: the central place of property rights in the human tragicomedy.  I'll let you know how it works! 

Mark Edwards

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Mark, please let us know how the experiment goes. I'm not teaching Property until the Spring and am still in the planning stages.

Posted by: Tanya Marsh | Aug 20, 2010 11:57:07 AM


I start my Property class every year with an excerpt from Erving Goffman's Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates - gets at a lot of the same questions and I find I can situate much of the course (what entitlements count as property, what rights attend that recognition, what methods of allocation, etc.) in that short reading, including often a good discussion on what you describe as the central place of property rights in the human tragicomedy - a rich theme!

Posted by: Nestor Davidson | Aug 21, 2010 5:16:41 AM

Well, I have to say, that went much better than I could have hoped. The students were genuinely interested -- the general reaction was, approximately, So that's what capitalism and communism are about!" Now, that may sound absurd, but at this stage of history, how many of us ever take a moment to whittle down those 2 great, opposing, political-economic theories to their essential dueling conceptions of property rights? Doing that (1) emphasizes that 'property, day one' point we all try to get across to 1ls that our system of property rights allocation is a choice we make, and we could have made others; (2) makes the 20th century historical conflict between systems much clearer; and (3) places the American system in a particular spot in a world of possibilities. Having spent a little time looking at the forest as a whole, hopefully they won't forget it's there while we study the trees (and, in some cases, the bark on particular trees). Tanya, I highly recommend it, but of course I'm biased.

Nestor, I've considered using Goffman as well. How do your students respond to it?

Posted by: Mark Edwards | Aug 24, 2010 11:11:57 AM

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