Public Choice

, Volume 163, Issue 1–2, pp 201–222

Further towards a theory of the emergence of property


DOI: 10.1007/s11127-014-0217-8

Cite this article as:
Wilson, B.J. Public Choice (2015) 163: 201. doi:10.1007/s11127-014-0217-8


This article explores the emergence of property as a moral convention. To understand this process I make use of several laboratory experiments on property in its nascence. These experiments illustrate how a rule of property arises from our knowledge of what is morally right, and not vice versa. I also argue that while the ultimate end of property is our interest in using things, the proximate end of property is not losing them, i.e., the end of a rule of property is to secure from morally unfounded harm.


Property Property rights Rules Rule‐following Experimental economics 

JEL Classification

B12 C90 K11 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economic Science InstituteChapman UniversityOrangeUSA

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