A Coasean Solution to Problems of Initial Acquisitions

Mats Johan Ekman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article extends the Coase Conjecture to ethical issues of property rights. The Coase Conjecture combines well with the Lockean labour-mixing criterion to limit the boundaries of morally legitimate initial acquisitions of unowned property; whenever the Coase Conjecture applies, the Lockean Proviso that there be “enough and as good” left is automatically satisfied. The essential point is that, when a claim is made, the marginal willingness to pay for the last portion of it is zero (infra-marginally, willingness to pay may be arbitrarily high). Thus, the market price of the claim is zero, except for the part of it that the claimant inhabits or improves. “Excessive” claims therefore come to have a zero market price, so anyone may take possession of them, by purchase or theft. In either case they must compensate the original claimant by a zero amount. It follows that non-claimants do not lose by putatively “excessive” grabs by claimants. Under these circumstances, any initial claims are just.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalErasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)45-60
Publication statusPublished - 21.12.2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 511 Economics
  • Property rights
  • Initial acquisition
  • Labour-mixing criterion


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