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Friday, June 05, 2015

Property Law and/as Science Fiction

I love teaching Property Law.  I also love science fiction.  Today I was reminded of a connection between the two.

I enjoyed part of the afternoon chatting with a group of our recent graduates who are deep in preparation for the Bar Exam.  Our conversation focused upon Property.  Talking with my students reminded me that real property can seem as much fantasy or science fiction as law.  The Rule Against Perpetuities is as scrutable as the technobabble on Star Trek.  It is not for nothing that the most ridiculous (and yet familiar) moments in the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending occur as the heroine seeks to establish her ownership of Earth.  (Yes, I love science fiction that much.)   

At the same time, like reading good science fiction, studying Property Law can help us learn about who we are as a people and what kind of society we want to have.  It is not for nothing that we still think about dynasties and aristocracies when we think about the Rule Against Perpetuities.  The challenge is to help students see the trek's one worth having, even with the technobabble.                  

Posted by Seth Davis on June 5, 2015 at 08:15 PM | Permalink


Paolo Bacigalupi's new near future science fiction novel, "The Water Knife", is at its core a novel about the implications of our current property rights regime for water law in the arid West, and how it might work under stress. It also opens with some hard ball civil procedure in a water law property rights case.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 8, 2015 8:21:48 PM

If you want to put together a property/commercial law themed Star Trek playlist, may I suggest you start with:

TNG: Code of Honor (the "racist" episode with the planet of tribal black people, but features an inheritance scheme nonetheless)

TNG: Devil's Due (Picard literally takes a deal with the Devil to contract arbitration!)

DS9: Progress (eminent domain and land speculation!)

DS9: Treachery, Faith, and the Great River (stream of commerce, much?)

Posted by: WL | Jun 8, 2015 8:02:27 PM

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