Friday, May 20, 2016
What a way to finish up the day! I'm now in a panel titled "Fun Property: How Property Can Increase Recreation, Health, and Happiness." What could be more fun than this?
The first paper is by Avital Margalit (Sapir) who is discussing her paper, Private Ownership in Sport Clubs: In Whom We Trust? As an avid sports fan, I am pretty pumped up about this paper. Margalit begins by questioning the private owners of sports teams and their decisions. Though Margalit is focused on futbol, I can't help but think about American football and owners' decisions, like the good decision the Saints made in acquiring Cody Fleener or the crazy QB situation the Eagles have put themselves in. But I digress. Margalit's comment on ownership of sports clubs is that the owner does not always make decisions in the best interest of the team and/or fans. Margalit questions whether there is some manner in which fans' interest could be considered in the owner's decision-making. Yes, the owner owns the club, but Margalit argues the fans make up the essence of the team. Without the fans, the team would not exist. To give the fans some say, Margalit has a number of different ideas, some of which have been implemented in some jurisdictions. The most interesting ideas she suggests are providing some ex ante mechanism by which owners agree to consider fans wants before making big, non-player decisions, such as whether to change team colors. Another possibility would be to have a fans association that gets a vote in big decisions.
Next up is Dave Fagundes (Houston) and his paper Property, Acquisition & Happiness. Turns out there have been lots of studies of hapiness and its connection to other areas of law (tort, crim, etc.), but no study on happiness and property, so Fagundes is filling in this gap. Fagundes finds that acquisition of more property does not increase our happiness. You read that correctly: levels of happiness and levels of wealth are not inherently directly correlated. Why? Fagundes provides a number of reasons. For example, the more things a person has, the less the person enjoys each individual thing. Another example is that happiness is really governed by how much you owe, not how much you own. Fagundes uses this information to then rethinkg different property law doctrines. First, he utilizes the relation of hapiness and property law to find out where is property law going wrong. For example, Fagundes asserts that to the extent American property law is incentivizing home ownership, and even multiple homeownership, that may be actually decreasing an individual's happiness. Fagundes then asks what does happiness tell us about what property law should we do right. For example, research has shown that a bigger house does not make an individual happier, but an individual can grow dramatically more unhappier if the individual has to sit in traffic. To the extent our policies strive to encourage home ownership and the homes people think they want to buy are in the suburbs, far away from the employer, perhaps our policies should instead be designed to encourage people to buy houses closer to employers so that the employees can avoid the commute which we know will make the individual unhappy.
Happiness continues into the next paper which discusses the right to the countryside. The third paper on this panel is Louise Burns (Dublin) who is presenting her paper Law, Landscape and the Common Good. Access to the Countryside for Recreation. Burns explains that in Ireland, there is a relatively recent concept of the "recreational user." A recreational user is someone who comes on property he/she does not own, just for the heck of it, usualy for accessing a beach or the hills. The recreational user is not up to no good, but just goofing off (i.e. having fun). The problem is that under Irish law, the recreational user gets no tort protection from the true owner if the recreational user is injured on the land of another. Thus, the law discourages individuals from accessing the countryside. Burns has taken on the task of interviewing land owners to find out their thoughts on whether recreational users should be allowed on their land. Not surprisingly, landowners are against having recreational users on their property and supportive of being free fom liability for any injuries that occur on their property.
Last up for today is Adam Sheppard (University of the West of England) and his paper Health Check or Reality Check? Planning, Health, and Decision Making. Sheppard begins by stating that when contemplating development decisions, health and well-being are being taken into account more and more. For example, in Bristol there are limits on where fastfood franchises can be set up, namely that they cannot be within a certain distance of schools if the location of the fastfood chain would negatively influence the students' food and health choices. The limits on fastfood locations have been somewhat limited because courts have allowed fastfood chains to be near schools if they will be closed at the times children are going to or from school or they meet other conditions. Moreover, Sheppard notes that using planning as a mneas of promoting healthy life styles has limited positive effects. For example, if fastfood chains are not allowed near schools, there is no similar regulation prohibiting Starbucks or grocery stores from being near schools, and children can purchase equally unhealthy items from Starbucks and grocery stores. Ultimately, Sheppard offers a hierarchy of questions that should be answered if planning is to be used to encourage healthy lifestyles, the primary question being normative, namely should the government be using planning to encourage individuals to make better lifestyle decisions. Sheppard takes the position that it is not a bad idea for the State to encourage healthy (or healthier) life style decisions, but he's skeptical of whether planning can achieve the goals desired.
Panels are done for the day, but tune in tomorrow for more live blogging of day two of ALPS!