Sherry Hour with Robert Ellickson

Mon, 10/01/2007 to Sat, 09/01/2007
4:30-5:30 PM, Palmer House
Event Category: 
Special Event
By Invitation Only

LAPA will host Professor Robert Ellickson for a sherry hour from 4:30-5:30 at the Palmer House to continue discussion of the paper he will present in the noon Economics and Sociology Workshop: "Unpacking the Household: Property Rights Around the Hearth." (Yes, there will be sherry and other liquids served.) Because there is no formal presentation of the paper at this session, participants should have either read the paper in advance or heard the noon presentation. Viviana Zelizer has agreed to start this session by briefly summarizing the noon discussion. There is no need to RSVP specially for this session. Just come!

Robert Ellickson is a legendary writer who has studied empirically how property rights are assigned and then actually used. He is one of the leading figures in transaction cost law-and-economics. Professor Ellickson’s books include Order Without Law (awarded the Order of the Coif Triennial Book Award in 1996), Land Use Controls: Cases and Materials (with Vicki L. Been), and Perspectives on Property Law (with Carol M. Rose and Bruce A. Ackerman). He has also published numerous articles in legal and public policy journals. His 1989 article in the Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization on property norms in the whaling industry is a classic of transaction cost economics. He has also made influential contributions to legal and political issues in urban economics, including zoning and homelessness. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Ellickson received his A.B. from Oberlin College and his LL.B. from Yale.

In Order without Law, his best-known book, Robert Ellickson shows that people govern themselves largely by means of informal rules--social norms--without the aid of a state or other central coordinator. Integrating the latest scholarship in law, economics, sociology, game theory, and anthropology, Ellickson investigated the uncharted world within which order is successfully achieved without law.

His new book project is tentatively called Homeways: How People Constitute and Govern their Households. In this project, Elllickson looks at property rights within the household, from decisions about home-ownership, to the exchanges of gifts, cash and contracts. His work sits at the border of sociology, economics, and political science and he is -- as in Order without Law -- interested in how far formal law can explain how it is that people order their lives. As his abstract explains:

As Aristotle recognized in The Politics, the household is an indispensable building block of social, economic, and political life. A liberal society grants its citizens far wider berth to arrange their households than to choose their familial and marital relationships. Legal commentators, however, have devoted far more attention to the family and to marriage than to the household as such. To unpack the household, this Article applies transaction cost economics and sociological theory to interactions among household participants. It explores questions such as the structure of ownership of dwelling units, the scope of household production, and the governance of activities around the hearth. Drawing on a wide variety of historical and statistical sources, the Article contrasts conventional family-based households with arrangements in, among others, medieval English castles, Benedictine monasteries, and Israeli kibbutzim. A household is likely to involve several participants and as many as three distinct relationships—that among occupants, that among owners, and that between these two groups (the landlord-tenant relationship). Individuals, when structuring these home relationships, typically pursue a strategy of consorting with intimates. This facilitates informal coordination and greatly reduces the transaction costs of domestic interactions. Utopian critics, however, have sought to enlarge the scale of households, and some legal advocates have urged household members to write formal contracts and take disputes into court. These commentators fail to appreciate the great advantages, in the home setting, of informally associating with a few trustworthy intimates.

The paper appeared in the Yale Law Journal and forms the core of the book. Ellickson would like to get our reactions as he turns this article into the book, which will be published by Princeton University Press. Ellickson also provides a memo as a guide for how to read the paper. The paper is long, but there are shorter ways through the text to get the major arguments. Ellickson's memo tells you how to do that. 

Get the paper and the memo, or view information about the noon Economics and Sociology workshop with Bob Ellickson.