Edited by Enrico Colombatto
Chapter 10: Property Rights Systems and the Rule of Law
Ronald A. Cass* Introduction Tolstoy’s novel, Anna Karenina, starts famously with the observation that ‘All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion’. The opposite is more nearly true in respect to the rule of law. Though many societies with differing governance structures and legal systems adhere in their own ways to the rule of law, societies that derogate from it do so in more similar fashion. In other words, it is easier to identify departures from the rule of law than to explain why particular actions conform to it. The rule of law matters to people around the world because it is a concomitant of a society that is successful and, in all likelihood, just (see Harvey 1961; Barnett 2001, pp. 136–44; Cass 2001, pp. xi–xii). It does not guarantee justice or social welfare, but it does correlate with justice and social welfare (under virtually any accepted deﬁnition of those terms). That is why the concept has such broad appeal. A critical aspect of the commitment to the rule of law is the deﬁnition and protection of property rights – rights to control, use, or transfer things (broadly conceived), including rights in intangibles such as intellectual property. Societies in which it is relatively easy to secure property rights, to protect them against infringement, to gain recompense when rights are infringed, and to transfer property rights in whole or in part to individuals who value them more highly, are more likely...
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