Property and Exclusivity: Ownership in the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith, and English Literature

John A. Robinson

Major Professor: Daniel B Klein, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Garett B. Jones, Eric Claeys

Buchanan Hall (formerly Mason Hall), D180
April 13, 2016, 07:30 PM to 04:00 PM


This dissertation contributes to the recent debate over the appropriateness of the metaphor that describes property as a 'bundle of rights,' prevalent in legal and economic scholarship. Critics of the bundle formulation argue that a more sensible alternative description of property is to be found in our more ancient legal tradition. I argue that the bundle formulation is indeed a departure from earlier treatments of property found in the writings of Gershom Carmichael, Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, among others. In my final chapter, I examine a variety of folk and fairy tales that illuminate some of the criticisms of the bundle formulation. Dominion, exclusivity, and the relationship between owners and things owned, are all key components of ownership in these stories. Such attributes of property are essential not only to its operation as a social institution, but also to its ennobling properties.