Table of Contents

The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

Elgar original reference

Edited by Enrico Colombatto

Economics is a matter of choice and growth, of interaction and exchange among individuals. Because property rights define the rules of these interactions and the objects of exchange, it is vital to fully understand the institutions and implications of the various property-rights regimes. With over 20 original and specially commissioned chapters, this book takes the reader from the historical and moral foundations of the discipline to the frontiers of scholarly research in the field.

Introduction

Enrico Colombatto

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public choice

Extract

Enrico Colombatto On property rights and economic analysis The role of property rights in economics can hardly be overemphasised. Indeed, since all the essential controversies about the purpose and nature of economic science can be reformulated as debates on the features of individual behaviour (consumption, production, leisure, policy making), and since the motivation and opportunities for human action are defined by systems of property rights, it is fair to say that economic analysis is about the consequences of the assignment and use of property. Of course, economics still remains a question of scarcity, as individuals try to enhance their well-being in a world characterised by ignorance and limited resources. But the very concept of scarcity would make little sense unless the idea of property were taken into account, for property rights define the structure of incentives that lead agents to struggle, compete and also cooperate in order to satisfy their needs and ambitions. Indeed, property rights characterise scarcity itself, which becomes a meaningful concept only if the possibility of using – or benefiting from – a given good is related to how much one gains by transferring (acquiring) those rights to (from) others. This view is now commonly accepted; even by those who favour technocratic approaches based on formal models where institutions hardly play a role. Contrary to common belief, however, the link between economic performance and property rights goes well beyond the standard problems of static optimisation, whereby supposedly efficient techniques are necessarily adopted and inputs fully...