Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2011

In this issue:

Property: A Bundle of Rights?

Lawyers and social scientists often describe property as a “bundle of rights.” What are the connotations of “bundle”? What features of property does the “bundle” talk obscure or even deny? What are its political consequences?

In the past 15 years, the “bundle of rights” view has been provocatively challenged, notably by James E. Penner, Thomas W. Merrill, and Henry E. Smith. This symposium brings the challenge to the fore, as these leading critics elaborate the core points of contention. They are joined by three younger critics of the “bundle” view, each with a fresh perspective.

Two eminent legal scholars, Richard A. Epstein and Stephen R. Munzer, take up the challenge. Each mounts his own defense of “bundle of rights” theory. Another renowned property scholar, Robert C. Ellickson, weighs in and stakes out a middle ground.


Property: A Bundle of Rights?, by the symposium organizers. This short document prompted the authors. It concludes with discussion questions.

Eric R. Claeys:
Bundle-of-Sticks Notions in Legal and Economic Scholarship

Robert C. Ellickson:
Two Cheers for the Bundle-of-Sticks Metaphor, Three Cheers for Merrill and Smith

Richard A. Epstein:
Bundle-of-Rights Theory as a Bulwark Against Statist Conceptions of Private Property

Larissa Katz:
The Regulative Function of Property Rights

Thomas W. Merrill:
The Property Prism

Adam Mossoff:
The False Promise of the Right to Exclude

Stephen R. Munzer:
A Bundle Theorist Holds On to His Collection of Sticks

James E. Penner:
Potentiality, Actuality, and “Stick”-Theory

Henry E. Smith:
Property Is Not Just a Bundle of Rights

EJW Audio: Troubles with “Bundle”: Henry E. Smith of the Harvard Law School says that property is complex but nonetheless has core aspects, aspects not aptly handled in “bundle” theory.

EJW Audio: The Market for Lemmas: Philip Coelho and James McClure discuss their research showing, among other things, that papers with lemmas almost never generate propositions that are tested by any subsequent research.

Call for Papers: EJW fosters open exchange. We welcome proposals and submissions of diverse viewpoints.

Table of Contents with links to articles (pdf)

Download entire September 2011 issue (1.7 MB) (pdf)