'Economic Property Rights' as 'Nonsense Upon Stilts': A Comment on Hodgson

Journal of Institutional Economics, Forthcoming

6 Pages Posted: 29 May 2015

See all articles by Daniel H. Cole

Daniel H. Cole

Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Date Written: May 15, 2015

Abstract

Geoffrey Hodgson’s (2015) critique of extra-legal ‘property rights’ – in this case, so-called ‘economic property rights’ – is right on target. This Comment contributes two further points to his critique. First, the notion of ‘economic property rights’ is based on what Gilbert Ryle (1949) referred to as a ‘category mistake’, conflating physical possession, which is a brute fact about the world, with the right or entitlement to possession, which is a social or institutional fact that cannot exist in the absence of some social contract, convention, covenant, or agreement. The very notion of a non-institutional ‘right’ is oxymoronic. Second, the fact that property is an institutional fact does not mean it must exist with the structure of a ‘state’ (as Bentham suggested). Rather, institutions like ‘property rights’ only require some community, however large or small, operating with what Searle (1995; 2005) calls collective intentionality and collective acceptance, according to shared ‘rules of recognition’ (Hart 1997).

Keywords: property, possesssion, brute facts, social facts, institution, state

JEL Classification: K11, P16

Suggested Citation

Cole, Daniel H., 'Economic Property Rights' as 'Nonsense Upon Stilts': A Comment on Hodgson (May 15, 2015). Journal of Institutional Economics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2611081

Daniel H. Cole (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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