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Public Law & Legal Theory


The economic forces governing transitions between different property rights regimes has been the source of extensive study since Demsetz’s path breaking 1967 essay, “Toward a Theory of Property Rights.” This paper offers first a general critique of that position, chiefly on the ground that it underestimates the practical difficulties of orchestrating efficient transitions in contexts where strong political forces are at play. Thereafter, the paper explores the movement among various systems that are used to allocate a particular public good, namely parking places on public streets. It examines both bottom-up systems that rely on analogues to the rule of first possession (in both clear and snowy weather) and top-down systems that use meters and permits as allocation devices. It offers explanations as to why the optimal rule will tend to vary with the density of traffic and generally opposes the use of special permits that limit occupancy to residences of certain neighborhoods, which effectively reduce the carrying capacity of a system of roads.



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