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The Shadow of The Cathedral, 106 Yale Law Journal 2175 (1997)


One View of the Cathedral is now so much a part of the legal canon that it is widely known simply by the joined names of its two authors, "Calabresi and Melamed." In turn, "Calabresi and Melamed" has become a shorthand name for the article's most famous legacy: the distinction between "property rules" and "liability rules" as means of protecting entitlements.

Although The Cathedral has been widely cited over its venerable history, academic interest in its basic analytic categories has come and gone in waves. As this classic piece now approaches its twenty-fifth anniversary, however, a number of new articles have reignited the scholarly discussion of "property rules" and "liability rules" as analytic categories. In several of these scholarly ventures, beginning with The Cathedral itself, a particular explanatory example looms in the foreground: It is an instance of environmental pollution, grounded on a classic nuisance case, Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co., in which a cement factory polluted the air so as to damage a number of nearby residential properties.

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