Choices about the meaning and allocation of property rights pose the sorts of policy questions familiar to economists thinking about development policy. If we are seeking economic growth of this or that sort, who should have access to what resources and on what conditions? Clear and strong property rights are neither an escape from these questions nor a ready-made answer. Property law is simple one place in which struggles over these questions have been carried out. In this short essay, I review these common, if mistaken, ideas about property rights in the West in light of the Western experience. My objective is to place the strategic choices embedded in any property regime in the foreground and lead one to hesitate before accepting conventional neo-liberal wisdom about the importance of clear or strong property rights for economic development.
©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston