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This should be a heady time for theorists and practitioners of property law. Some of the most important recent proposals to improve human wellbeing rest on the expansion or reform of property rights. From Peru, the political economist Hernando de Soto recently captured the world's attention by contending that a lack of property rights stands between the slum dwellers of the world's poor countries and new horizons of prosperity. Nearer home, Yale economist Robert Shiller has proposed a new market in risk, essentially propertizing present expectations of good fortune, which would represent one of the most dramatic expansions in the domain of private property since labor power slipped the bonds of status-based obligation and became a freely alienable commodity. Debates grow hot over whether copyright and patent protection should expand, retract, or take new forms altogether. In environmental law, the power of new types of property rights to foster efficient conservation represents the most significant advance since the passage of the major regulatory acts of the 1970s. In short, it is a time characterized not just by what Michael Heller has called the "dynamic analytics" of property, but also by a dynamic practice, in which basic reform of property regimes has become a major – and contested – instrument for pursuing all manner of goals.


Law | Property Law and Real Estate


Originally appearing in the University of Chicago Law Review, 72 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1237 (2005). Reprinted with permission from the University of Chicago Law School.