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American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  24 Ratings  ·  5 Reviews

In America, we are eager to claim ownership: our homes, our ideas, our organs, even our own celebrity. But beneath our nation’s proprietary longing looms a troublesome question: what does it mean to own something? More simply: what is property?

The question is at the heart of many contemporary controversies, including disputes over who owns everything from genetic material

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Harvard University Press
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Frank Stein
Dec 23, 2012 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Of course this is not supposed to be a comprehensive history of American property law. What it is is a look at some of those areas where the law of property has changed the most in the past 200 years, and what that means for our understanding of property in general.

First Banner disposes of the old saw that property was once purely based on tangible objects while now property deals mainly with intangible things. Old English landed property was in fact loaded with intangible rights, like the advow
Howard Mansfield
Jun 30, 2013 Howard Mansfield rated it really liked it
Recommended to Howard by:
“Information wants to be free,” goes Stewart Brand’s famous edict. In the next – and less often quoted sentence – he said, “Information also wants to be expensive.”
The first sentence is invoked to declare the end of the copyright, and to declare the ownership of intellectual property to be an illusion. But Brand’s statement is actually quite traditional. It is just another episode in our changing definitions of property.
Our ideas about property – about rights to ownership – have always been i
Andy Oram
May 11, 2011 Andy Oram rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
Banner's book is a highly readable survey combining the general with the specific. While he covers a wide variety of aspects and things in property law, he preserves some threads from one chapter to another, such as the notion that property is defined by the goals of litigants and governments. There are many useful accounts of familiar incidents in American law, such as the "Right to Privacy" article by Warren and Brandeis. (Read the book to find out how privacy evolved into a property right.) B ...more
Evan Thomas
Jun 10, 2012 Evan Thomas rated it it was amazing
A very readable history of the way the concept of property has changed in America. Of particular interest is how earlier battles over things like piano rolls mirror current battles over music downloads. Banner is especially good at showing how changing views of what is property alter even how people make music.
Ben Sowell
May 18, 2014 Ben Sowell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A bit dry, but interesting and well written.
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