Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives | Michael A. Heller - James Salzman
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An Adam Grant Spring Book Pick
Finalist for the Next Big Idea Club
"A must-read this spring -- a fantastically well-written exploration of our need for ownership and the costs of greed."
--Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree
A hidden set of rules governs who owns what--explaining everything from whether you can recline your airplane seat to why HBO lets you borrow a password illegally--and in this lively and entertaining guide, two acclaimed law professors reveal how things become "mine."
"Mine" is one of the first words babies learn. By the time we grow up, the idea of ownership seems natural, whether 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? 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, but in New York you lose the space and the chair?
Mine! explains these puzzles and many more. Surprisingly, there are just six simple stories that everyone uses to claim everything. Owners choose the story that steers us to do what they want. But we can always pick a different story. This is true not just for airplane seats, but also for battles over digital privacy, climate change, and wealth inequality. As Michael Heller and James Salzman show--in the spirited style of Freakonomics, Nudge, and Predictably Irrational--ownership is always up for grabs.
With stories that are eye-opening, mind-bending, and sometimes infuriating, Mine! reveals the rules of ownership that secretly control our lives.
“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
About the Author
MICHAEL HELLER and JAMES SALZMAN are among the world's leading authorities on ownership. 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. 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.