Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Private Property: Origins

  • Enrico ColombattoEmail author
  • Valerio Tavormina
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_724


This entry focuses on the legitimacy of private property and analyzes the process of first appropriation. In particular, we examine and comment the different views on the origin of private property rights that have emerged through the history of economic and legal thinking, from Democritus to de Jasay. These views have been grouped in two broad categories: consequentialism and fundamental principles. Although consequentialism is now dominant among economists and inchoate in the legal profession, we observe that it is in fact an alibi for discretionary policymaking by the authority. By definition, fundamentalist approaches generate rules that limit discretion. However, we show that some fundamentalist views rest on questionable a priori statements. De Jasay’s argument based on the presumption of liberty is perhaps the only perspective that escapes this criticism.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università di TorinoTurinItaly
  2. 2.IREF (Institut de Recherches Économiques et Fiscales)LyonFrance
  3. 3.Università Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly