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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.

Chapter 2: The Ethics and Economics of Private Property

Hans Hermann Hoppe

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


Hans-Hermann Hoppe The problem of social order Alone on his island, Robinson Crusoe can do whatever he pleases. For him, the question concerning rules of orderly human conduct – social cooperation – simply does not arise. Naturally, this question can only arise once a second person, Friday, arrives on the island. Yet even then, the question remains largely irrelevant so long as no scarcity exists. Suppose the island is the Garden of Eden; all external goods are available in superabundance. They are ‘free goods’, just as the air that we breathe is normally a ‘free’ good. Whatever Crusoe does with these goods, his actions have repercussions neither with respect to his own future supply of such goods nor regarding the present or future supply of the same goods for Friday (and vice versa). Hence, it is impossible that there could ever be a conflict between Crusoe and Friday concerning the use of such goods. A conflict is only possible if goods are scarce. Only then will there arise the need to formulate rules that make orderly – conflict-free – social cooperation possible. In the Garden of Eden only two scarce goods exist: the physical body of a person and its standing room. Crusoe and Friday each have only one body and can stand only at one place at a time. Hence, even in the Garden of Eden conflicts between Crusoe and Friday can arise: Crusoe and Friday cannot occupy the same standing room simultaneously without coming thereby into physical con...

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