Property, in the broadest sense of the word, refers to a system of rights that gives people legal control over valuable things and also refers to the valued things themselves. The holder of the right to property is entitled to consume, alter, share, redefine, pawn, rent, mortgage, sell, trade, transfer and even destroy his or her property. In addition, the holder is generally protected from being denied access to his or her own property by those who do not have legal entitlements to it. This basic idea is well established; forms of private ownership in land have existed for over ten millennia and those in chattels (moveable objects of property such as clothing, tools or automobiles) probably began to develop as early as the Stone Age.
But it is less clear what the concept of property entails, especially in light of the fact that so many different kinds of resources are already constituted as property in some way or another. The answer to this question is variously given, but one common view – Bundle Theory – argues that it is possible to disintegrate the notion of property by defining it only in terms of the particular bundle of sticks of proprietorial entitlements that an individual holds in any given case. This bundle of sticks is then regarded as the property that he or she has.
Another solution – Integrated Theory – departs from Bundle Theory by viewing the three elements of property (exclusion, use and alienation) as an integral whole and not as three distinct but interrelated characteristics. This solution, which is often associated with Honore’s incidents of property, suggests that there are deep conceptual and practical ties between the elements of property; the idea that a resource is truly property entails that it is all of these things together.
A third option is to consider that the concept of property does not entail any of these three elements but rather a general principle of lawfulness, as exemplified by the rule that a resource is not expropriated without justification. In this respect, this approach is reminiscent of the earlier doctrine of Full Liberal Ownership.
The problem with this last solution is that the lawfulness of a resource requires an indeterminate amount of state intervention. As a result, this approach is viewed as somewhat arbitrary by those who advocate the strictest interpretation of property rights.
The most common response to this problem is to abandon the ‘integrated concept of property’ in favor of a more modest and flexible concept, such as that articulated by Hohfeld. This view, sometimes called ‘family resemblance theory’, concedes that the ‘essence’ of property can be summed up as an array of central features but leaves it to law and custom to specify which are necessary and sufficient conditions for a resource to be deemed property. For example, most theorists now accept that a property right must include not just power to exclude but also powers of management and alienation, and some also allow the ability to grant rights to others to use the resource. sahabatqq login