The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Property Rights

  • Armen A. Alchian
Reference work entry


A property right is a socially enforced right to select uses of an economic good. A Private property right is one assigned to a specific person and is alienable in exchange for similar rights over other goods. Its strength is measured by its probability and costs of enforcement which depend on the government, informal social actions, and prevailing ethical and moral norms. In simpler terms, no one may legally use or affect the physical circumstances of goods to which you have Private property rights without your approval or compensation. Under hypothetically perfect Private property rights none of my actions with my resources may affect the physical attributes of any other person’s private property. For example, your Private property rights to your computer restrict my and everyone else’s permissible behaviour with respect to your computer, and my Private property rights restrict you and everyone else with respect to whatever I own. It is important to note that it is the physical use and condition of a good that are protected from the action of others, not its exchange value.


Corporations Exchange value Firm Theory of Firm-specific resources Fisheries Government property rights Joint production Limited liability Moral hazard Mutual property rights Ownership and control Private property rights Property rights Quasirent Specialization Torts Value 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Armen A. Alchian
    • 1
  1. 1.