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What are the dangers of theory building about property rights in development economics? Are we becoming more ethical in the way we conceptualize property over time? In the latest episode of the Governance Podcast, Professor Bart Wilson of Chapman University discusses his book project on the origins and meaning of property.

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The Guest

Bart J. Wilson is the Donald P. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Economics and Law at Chapman University. He is a founding member of the Economic Science Institute and founding member and Director of the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy. His research uses experimental economics to explore the foundations of exchange and specialization and the origins of property. Another of his research programs compares decision making in humans, apes, and monkeys. Bart has published papers in the American Economic Review, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, and Nature Human Behaviour. His research has been supported with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Federal Trade Commission. Bart has co-authored with Vernon Smith a forthcoming Cambridge University Press book entitled, Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century.

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Skip Ahead

01:05: What is property?

07:10: How did using tools give primates a sense of ownership?

08:30: Are things we own extensions of ourselves?

11:50: What’s the difference between property ‘in,’ ‘on’ and ‘of’?

15:54: An original experiment exploring what property means

26:40: Does this experiment tell us something new about the way we treat the concept of property in economics?

30:07: Where do property ‘rights’ come from?

36:20: Is the language of ‘rights’ morally and conceptually meaningful in domains other than property?

40:30: Are human beings becoming more ethical in the way they conceptualize property over time?

42:30:  How can the humanities and social sciences find a common language to theorize property?

43:07: Does interdisciplinarity make our work better or noisier?