Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952613 | Print ISBN: 9781412905794 | Online ISBN: 9781412952613| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
David C. Johnston
Property is best understood as a set of rights (or entitlements) to assets. Although most definitions of property follow the Roman tradition in emphasizing the relationship between people and things, it is more accurate to think of property rights as a complex group of relationships among people with respect to things, because property rights impose obligations on nonowners as well as conferring rights (and sometimes obligations) on owners. Property has taken on a wide range of forms across cultures and across time. In all its forms, however, property is a political institution. It allocates authority over assets to individual people, groups, or legal entities comprised of individuals. Those who possess that authority have greater freedom of action within the range or sphere of their authority than they do outside it as well as greater freedom (within that same sphere) than others. Property is distinct from possession. Possession is a de ...