Hohfeld forever

The great Wesley Hohfeld (the Dmitri Mendeleev of law) famously identified four types of legal rights: claim rights, liberty rights, powers, and immunities. Alas, Hohfeld’s own writings explaining his fourfold taxonomy are not very “user friendly.” Via our colleague and friend Larry Solum, here is the best (and most succinct) summary of Hohfeld’s influential taxonomy of rights we have ever read. Below is an excerpt from Solum’s summary of Hohfeld’s fourfold taxonomy (emphasis added by us):

Lawyers tend to mush all legal rights together into a single category. The right to privacy, the right to freedom of speech, property rights, and civil rights—these diverse legal phenomena are frequently treated as if the “right” involved in these diverse cases was a single unambiguous type. Hohfeld’s first contribution was to distinguish different types of rights. Claim rights, for example, create corresponding obligations. Thus, my right to exclusive use of my land entails a corresponding duty of noninterference. You have a duty not to enter upon my land. But my property right also entails my liberty to use my land in a wide variety of ways—to build a house, plant a garden, and so forth. Correlated to that liberty is a correlative absence of inconsistent claim rights. You have no right to prevent me from building a house or planting a garden. Some legal rights involve powers over others. Thus, an employer has a right to control and direct the employee’s actions at work, and parents have authority over their children. Finally, there are immunities from authority. Thus, when children reach the age of majority or are legally emancipated they acquire immunities that disable the authority rights of their parents.

We will delve into Hohfeld’s taxonomy in our next few posts …

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Image credit: @liebenauerin

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A critique of stakeholder theory

A stakeholder without a veto is just window dressing, but if there are too many stakeholders with veto rights, nothing gets done. Mark J. Dunkleman’s excellent history of New York City’s Penn Station provides an instructive case study of this critique:

In the dozens of interviews I conducted with those who have worked on Penn Station during the past three decades, I encountered a parade of complaints that but for one particular obstacle, the project would have been completed expeditiously. If only the postal service hadn’t obstructed Moynihan at the first turn. If only Amtrak hadn’t rejected an early deal. If only the Port Authority had offered more money. If only Washington had appropriated additional funds. If only Jim Dolan had decided to accept a new arena. If only for 9/11. If only Spitzer hadn’t been forced to resign. If only for the financial collapse. Taken together, the conversations come to feel like something akin to the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Everyone describes what was surely an important obstacle. But it’s only after taking them all together that the full picture becomes clear. In a dynamic where so many players can exercise a veto, it’s nearly impossible to move a project forward. No one today has the leverage to do what seems to be best for New York as a whole. And ultimately, government is rendered incompetent.

Of course, for us students of the great Guido Calabresi (my intellectual mentor) or the late Ronald Coase (my intellectual hero), none of this new.

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Source: Manzhynski et al. (2018).

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a circle thief

Sunday funday! Animation by Natsumi Comoto (hat tip: Kottke).

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An illustration of the law of diminishing marginal utility?

Is Disney’s Star Wars strategy counter-productive? More details about Disney’s decision-making are available here. (Also, here is Wikipedia’s entry for diminshing marginal utility.)

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Does the American with Disabilities Act apply to commercial aircraft?

Apparently not, as noted in this fascinating report by Michael Schulson on “The Physics (and Economics, and Politics) of Wheelchairs on Planes.” File under: Hmmm.

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Police error?

Another police chase (this one in South Florida) on busy highways led to the deaths of two innocent civilians, including Frank Ordoñez, a UPS driver and father of two children. Call me a “Monday morning quarterback,” but why didn’t the police just call off the chase as soon as the robbers hijacked the UPS van? After all, all UPS trucks have GPS tracking devices.

Update (4:26 PM): “Nineteen officers from five agencies fired into the UPS truck, and the number of rounds expended could exceed 200 …” File under: WTF? More infuriating details here.

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Source: The Root

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Ten-year challenge (pop culture & the law edition)

During the last ten years (2009-2019), I authored or co-authored the following five papers in which I explored a wide variety of popular culture artifacts (novels, movies, TV shows, urban legends, etc.) from a legal perspective:

1. Gödel’s loophole (2013) (Kurt Gödel’s alleged discovery of a logical contradiction in the U.S. Constitution).

2. Clones and the Coase theorem, with Orlando Martinez (2012) (Blade Runner).

3. Buy or bite? (2014) (vampires).

4. Finding Santiago (2015) (Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea).

5. Breaking Bad Promises (in progress) (Breaking Bad, Mexican narcocorridos, payday loans).


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