Society makes property. Economic systems are defined by what they allow to become
property, and the extent of property varies enormously. Some allow property claims
to fixed objects, such as land and trees, sometimes including the ephemeral, such
as wildlife or flowing water. Some extend property to include ideas (patents); a
few include human beings themselves as chattel slaves.
Societies also differ in the intensive rights they accord property holders, the bundle
of state enforced privileges attaching responsibility for the impact actions have
on others. Intensive rights prevent us from assessing law as involving more or less
protection to property because each use of property affects the property of others.
Property has intensive dimensions because it involves reciprocal relationships among
people; my intensive right to use property diminishes your right to be free of intrusion.
This makes property law distributional. Few dispute that property law has important
effects on income distribution, but some choose to emphasize arguments over efficiency.
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