“Mine” is one of the first words babies learn, and by the time we grow up, the idea of ownership seems natural, whether we are 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 you? 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, while in New York you lose both the space and the chair?
In Mine!, Michael Heller and James Salzman, two of the world’s leading authorities on ownership, explain these puzzles and many more. Remarkably, they reveal, there are just six simple rules that everyone uses to claim everything. Owners choose the rule that steers us to do what they want. But we can pick differently. This is true not just for airplane seats, but also for battles over digital privacy, climate change, and wealth inequality. Mine! draws on mind-bending, often infuriating, and always fascinating accounts from business, history, courtrooms, and everyday life to reveal how the rules of ownership control our lives and shape our world.
About the Author
MICHAEL HELLER is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law at Columbia Law School. He is the author of The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives.
JAMES SALZMAN is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and the UCSB Bren School of the Environment. He is the author of Drinking Water: A History.
“Thought-provoking . . . Mine! sets out to change the way we think about what we own, which is often decidedly at odds with reality.”
--The New York Times Book Review
"An easy-to-read, Freakonomics-style ramble through the space-saver wars of South Boston and the ingenious architecture of Disney World’s skip-the-line FastPass+, the book challenges our assumptions about who owns what — and explores how those assumptions can be manipulated, for good or for ill."
--The Boston Globe
"In Mine!, Heller and Salzman examine a wide array of ways that people lay claim to things, both actual (as in treasure) and more abstract (as in ideas). Since ownership is constructed, it’s always up for grabs."
--The New Yorker
"Mine! is enjoyable, well-written and with a deftness of touch that belies the radical re-examination of property rights at its heart. It is hard to come away without reconsidering how you feel about problems as everyday as putting towels on sun loungers or foraging for berries, but also bigger questions of bodily autonomy and land ownership. This is one book you will not feel sorry to capture for yourself or, perhaps more appropriately, borrow from a library."
--The Financial Times (U.K.)
“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
"An academic barfight book. Completely joyful to read but it's a thing to start and settle fights because everyone thinks they're right."
--Roman Mars, host of 99% Invisible
"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."
“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