Briefcase: Generosity of Property & Happiness

Guest: Dave Fagundes


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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many in the Houston area gave away furniture, clothing, and even vehicles to displaced neighbors. Dave Fagundes, with the University of Houston Law Center, researches the intersection of property law and happiness, and discussed how the law regulates an owner's relationship to property.

"American property law recognizes an owner's right to use, transfer, and exclude others from the owner's land and possessions," Professor Fagundes said. "These rights tend to incentivize people to acquire more property and withhold it from others."

The generosity of Houstonians was contrary to the law's incentives to acquire and withhold, Fagundes claims. "The emerging science of happiness casts doubt on the law's tendency to encourage getting and keeping property. Evidence from this field actually shows that property owners maximize their welfare when they share property, donate it to charity, or simply give it away."