Legally defined and enforceable rights which relate to the ownership arid use of resources and commodities. The particular structure of property rights in an economy will have an important effect on the way in which that economy works. For example, in the U.K. economy individuals are able to own the assets of business corporations and to buy and seil their ownership shares on the stock market. In centrally planned economies, on the other hand, this is not possible; all productive assets can only be owned by the state. Likewise, in market economies, individuals are able to seil goods and services directly to each other, and when such a transaction takes place there is not only an exchange of same physical quantity of the good but also an exchange of the rights to use that good in certain ways sanctioned by the legal system. Explicit awareness of and interest in property rights has developed only relatively recently in economics, but the ‘property rights approach’ has led to important new insights into the way economic systems work.
Reference: The Penguin Dictionary of Economics, 3rd edt.