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58 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1851 (2016-2017)
Buying Happiness: Property, Acquisition, and Subjective Well-Being

handle is hein.journals/wmlr58 and id is 1913 raw text is: 









    BUYING HAPPINESS: PROPERTY, ACQUISITION, AND
                   SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING


                        DAVID FAGUNDES*


                            ABSTRACT

  Acquiring property is a central part of the modern American vision
of the good life. The assumption that accruing more land or chattels
will make us better off is so central to the contemporary preoccupa-
tion with acquisition that it typically goes without saying. Yet an
increasing body of evidence from psychologists and economists who
study hedonics-the science of happiness-yields the surprising con-
clusion that getting and having property does not actually increase
our subjective well-being. In fact, it might even decrease it. While
scholars have integrated the insights of hedonics into other areas of
law, no scholarship has yet done so with respect to property.
   This Article maps this novel territory in three steps. In Part I, it
summarizes recent findings on the highly conflicted effect of the
acquisition of both land and chattels on subjective well-being. In
Part II, it explores the implications of these findings for four leading
normative theories of property law, showing that in different ways
the evidence produced by happiness studies undermines the core em-
pirical propositions on which these theories rest. Part II also explores
the potential of subjective well-being as a framework for assessing the
optimal regulation of ownership. Finally, Part III investigates how

    * Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center; J.D., Harvard Law School; A.B.,
Harvard College. Thanks to Emily Berman, John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco,
Marcilynn Burke, David DePianto, David Kwok, Peter Linzer, Jonathan Masur, James
Nelson, Michael Olivas, D. Theodore Rave, Jessica Roberts, W. Keith Robinson, Joe Sanders,
Greg Vetter, Kellen Zale, participants in the 2015 Texas Legal Scholars Conference and the
2015 Central States Law School Association Annual Meeting, and faculty workshops at the
South Texas College of Law and the University of Houston Law Center for thoughtful sug-
gestions about this project.


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