21 November 2010

Absence from the transaction

Covenants represent one or both parties when those parties cannot be present to defend their own interests. In the absence of one of the parties we get extremely narrow channels of information about the preferences that correspond to a sub-segment of the entire basket of endowments – we can’t tell what some of the parties would like to have happen to what belongs to them. 
Let us define private property as the assignment of tastes and preferences to each of the goods in the basket of endowments to be allocated. Absence from the transaction of some of the parties is one form of a failure in private property  because we cannot assign the absent party’s tastes and preferences to their endowment. Various other modes of property rights (as distinct from private property) assign other tastes and preferences to the basket of goods to be allocated. 
A stable definition of property rights, whether private or public or strongman or what have you, corresponds to a stable assignment of tastes and preferences to a given basket of endowments. 
Deservedness supports that assignment which corresponds to private property. Lack of deservedness, whether because there is too much surplus that is alienable or whether because there is too much deficit that is inalienable, undermines the institution of private property. 

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