Abstract

Adopting a simplistic view of Coase (1960), most economic analyses of property rights disregard both the key advantage that legal property rights (that is, in rem rights) provide to rightholders in terms of enhanced enforcement, and the difficulties they pose to acquirers in terms of information asymmetry about legal title. Consequently, these analyses tend to overstate the role of "private ordering" and disregard the two key elements of property law: first, the essential conflict between property (that is, in rem) enforcement and transaction costs; and, second, the institutional solutions created to overcome it, mainly contractual registries capable of making truly impersonal (that is, asset-based) trade viable when previous relevant transactions on the same assets are not verifiable by judges. This paper fills this gap by reinterpreting both elements within the Coasean framework and thus redrawing the institutional foundations of both property and corporate contracting.
Published as: Property As an Economic Concept: Reconciling Legal and Economic Conceptions of Property Rights in a Coasean Framework in International Review of Economics , Vol. 59, No. 2, 121--144, January, 2012