I Share, Therefore It’s Mine

Donald J. Kochan*

Uniquely interconnecting lessons from law, psychology, and economics, this article aims to provide a more enriched understanding of what it means to “share” property in the sharing economy. It explains that there is an “ownership prerequisite” to the sharing of property, drawing in part from the findings of research in the psychology of child development to show when and why children start to share. They do so only after developing what psychologists call “ownership understanding.” What the psychological research reveals, then, is that the property system is well suited to create recognizable and enforceable ownership norms that include the rights to acquire and retain ownership of property (parting with it only on terms defined by the owner), thereby also providing necessary economic incentives to share. Along the way, this article bridges the psychology research with Hohfeld’s description of the nature of rights, explaining the corresponding rights characterizations appropriate to describe each step in a child’s development of ownership understanding.

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* Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development, Professor of Law, Chapman University‘s Dale E. Fowler School of Law. J.D., 1998, Cornell Law School. I would like to share my thanks for helpful comments from Danny Bogart and Richard Redding, and for the invaluable assistance of Jennifer Spinella in reviewing drafts of this project.

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