Profs. Michael Heller & James Salzman Guest-Blogging on "Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives"


I'm delighted to report that Prof. Michael Heller (Columbia) and my colleague Prof. James Salzman (UCSB/UCLA) are guest-blogging for the next several days about their new book:

Here's the summary, and some jacket blurbs:

A hidden set of rules governs who owns what—explaining everything from whether you can recline your airplane seat to why HBO lets you borrow a password illegally—and in this lively and entertaining guide, two acclaimed law professors reveal how things become "mine."

"Mine" is one of the first words babies learn. By the time we grow up, the idea of ownership seems natural, whether buying a cup of coffee or a house. But who controls the space behind your airplane seat: you reclining or the squished laptop user behind? Why is plagiarism wrong, but it's okay to knock-off a recipe or a dress design? And after a snowstorm, why does a chair in the street hold your parking space in Chicago, but in New York you lose the space and the chair?

Mine! explains these puzzles and many more. Surprisingly, there are just six simple stories that everyone uses to claim everything. Owners choose the story that steers us to do what they want. But we can always pick a different story. This is true not just for airplane seats, but also for battles over digital privacy, climate change, and wealth inequality. As Michael Heller and James Salzman show—in the spirited style of Freakonomics, Nudge, and Predictably Irrational—ownership is always up for grabs.

With stories that are eye-opening, mind-bending, and sometimes infuriating, Mine! reveals the rules of ownership that secretly control our lives.

"This delicious book will guide you through the confusing maze of ownership disputes that bedevil our daily lives. Who owns your 'private' information, your Netflix password, your yard's airspace, and the chair of your deceased parents that you and your sister now both want? It's often unclear: read and prepare yourself!"
—Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"Mine! is one of those rare and treasured books that make you feel smarter and change the way you see the world. So much of the news I read just makes more sense now. I haven't had an experience like this as a reader since Freakonomics. The authors deliver a rollicking good read, filled with amazing stories about the secret rules of ownership and why they work in unexpected ways. This is way too much fun for an important book by leading minds in their field."
—Barton Gellman, three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Angler and Dark Mirror

"Who knew there are hidden rules of ownership controlling our lives? I didn't until I read this fascinating, illuminating book.  I'm very glad I did."
—Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion

"A delightful, often funny, book that brings to life the hidden but essential assumptions about how we own things — or imagine we do. It is filled with one irresistible and revealing story after another where the secret turns out to be who owns what, from Adam and Eve to the birth of barbed wire. Mine! will challenge how you think about everything from the groceries in your shopping cart to concert tickets on a scalping site. Make Mine! yours."
—Charles Fishman, author of One Giant Leap and The Walmart Effect

"A fascinating discussion of what ownership is, what it isn't, what it might be. It's immensely clarifying, beautifully written, and perfectly timed—and it might improve the world to boot."
—Cass R. Sunstein, co-author of Nudge and author of Too Much Information

"Heller (The Gridlock Economy), a professor of real estate law at Columbia Law School, and Salzman (Drinking Water), an environmental law professor at UCLA, examine how competing principles of ownership shape human behavior in this illuminating account…. They stuff their survey with intriguing legal cases and historical lessons and display flashes of wit. Readers will gain fresh insights into the law and society from this entertaining and instructive guide."
—Publishers Weekly

"Who owns what underlies human conflicts, economic development, innovation, and international relations.  With vivid stories and memorable insights, Heller and Salzman decode legal rules about ownership much as Freakonomics decodes economics and psychological rules of incentives."
—Martha Minow, Former Dean, Harvard Law School

NEXT: How long before grid attacks become the new normal?

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  1. The tech billionaires owe the users the value of their personal information, which is half of revenues. Any agreement is unconscionable for procedural and substantive reasons, and void. If I were a licensed lawyer that would be my aggregate claim, like for a $trillion.

    1. Daivd writing “…If I were a licensed lawyer…” is, for some reason, hysterically funny. I’m not sure why. But, to me, it was the funniest comment so far in 2021.

      Keep up the comedy, Daivd. In this depressing Covid hellscape; we all need an ongoing source of humor.

      1. It is funny. If I were a licensed lawyer, it would make me more dull witted than a kid in Life Skills class, learning to eat with a spoon. That kid would have more common sense, and be easier to understand. The fact that no lawyer dumbass has filed that self evident claim is evidence.

        The lawyer dumbass is allowing a massive 100 million internet crimes and 15 million common law crimes each that the lawyer lives. This pro-criminal dumbass is protecting the criminal who is the client of the prosecution, of the defense, of the judge. This dumbass takes our $trillion in rent seeking and returns nothing of value. This dumbass is in utter failure, and must be crushed to save our country.

        Then you have the mentioned contract law, which is garbage. Ebay enforces a winning bid od of one cent for a CD through reviews and market exclusion. The lawyer enforces shit.

      2. If I had nothing else to do today, I might amuse myself writing “If I were a lawyer” to the tune of “If I were a rich man”

        1. If I were a lawyer I would be the biggest dumbass in the country. Go for it. Rap hit.

          1. But you already *are* the biggest dumbass, maybe not in the whole country, but certainly in the comments on this blog.

            1. That’s just an insult. Try an argument of fact or of logic, for a change of pace. It violates the Fallacy of Irrelevance.

              When people pass 1L, a neurophysiologic effect has taken place described by the word, dumbass. That is a term of art, not an insult.

              1. If you ever make an argument of fact or logic, I will respond with facts and logic.

      3. It is also amusing that he apparently has no conception of why you find it amusing. I wouldn’t think it necessary to have any legal training to comprehend that.

        1. All lawyer dumbasses are deniers.

  2. Jared Diamond? Really?

  3. cop: whose car is this? where are you going? what do you do there?

    spartan: mine.

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