Property and the Common Law

Property and the Common Law

What kind of rule provides stable property possession within a complex system of property ownership and leasing?  Professor Richard Epstein of NYU School of Law gives a basic definition of the rules of property, then goes through a variety of cases and examples integral to Anglo-American property law.  Professor Epstein provides an alternative to the conventional view that property rights are arbitrarily created by the state, and therefore can be changed at will by the state; a few simple rules, he argues, are universal principles of social organization, consistent across time and culture, which form the basis of social gains.

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9 of 11: Lockean Water Law versus Roman Water Law [No. 86]

How did the ancient Romans regulate water usage and ownership? Professor Richard Epstein explains how the Roman system differed from the property rights system developed by Locke. Locke proposed a first possession rule for water, similar to property ... How did the ancient Romans regulate water usage and ownership?

Professor Richard Epstein explains how the Roman system differed from the property rights system developed by Locke. Locke proposed a first possession rule for water, similar to property rights for land ownership. His system presumed a hierarchy of individual usage, without regard to the consequences for the community at large. The Roman system, on the other hand, regulated water by a customary hierarchy of uses where each person could take the water they needed but no one could claim individual ownership.

Professor Richard Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

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