Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Public and Private Property are Patterns in Use

...and patterns are vehicles for journeys and destinations of all kinds - both of which change over time. That really matters! Perhaps if more people thought about differences in property use this way, less conflict as to public and private property values would be the result.

Meantime, there's enough unnecessary uniformity in property use patterns, to bore even those least inclined to explore their surroundings. As a result, property use - and the experiential realities associated with it - is less than optimal in many circumstance. When property use becomes defined within limited patterns at all government levels, both public and private property end up underutilized and often under maintained as well.

People have been encouraged to think of public and private property in static and combative terms. Consequently, individuals often have to decipher public or private benefit through arbitrary divisions where little benefit exists. The time/knowledge use property of fiscally provided services is the worst scenario imaginable, within a large tax base. Why? Every service possibility becomes an imposition on someone else. When time and knowledge use are mostly conceived in fiscal terms, real economic growth potential is stunted before it can scarcely begin.

"Property as theft" arguments can miss the environment and time use patterns which people are trying to coordinate. David Duke, in "Propertarian Hokey Pokey", continues some recent discussions about property and Adam Blackstone has a good response to his posts. Whether public or private property is involved, multiple income levels need to be considered, so that infrastructure can be designed which caters to different needs. Where higher income levels do not have space to include for lower income levels, lower income levels need different plans altogether for their own use. In domestic summits for knowledge use systems, citizens would also be involved at the outset for crucial planning stages.

Even where flexibility exists for property use patterns, some planning elements invariably need to be tended to before other Coasean bargining is possible . After a visit to a private Indian city, Gurgaon, Alex Tabarrok explained in a recent Econtalk that private coordination for city development proved to be partially successful. However, issues remained - which might have been easier to address - had they been tended to beforehand. For instance, transportation between various parts of the city was sorely lacking.

Michael Hobbes at The New Republic, wrote about difficulties which ensue when governments attempt to scale up strategies which work quite well...in some places. Pattern repetition (regulations, zoning, infrastructure) can be tempting after a successful project because it seems so easy to replicate. But that's just the problem: rules and expectations which work well for some groups, may not work well for others. When overall rules - rather than locally planned "recipes" - become the norm, life can become boring, stifling and worse, limited in important aspects for some lifestyles.

Inherent in every struggle to maintain "sameness" for everyone, is the fact one person's ideal economic circumstance is problematic for someone else. When democracies in developed nations begin to pull back on public options, they also tend to place further restrictions on private options.

As a result, broad based innovation is becoming more difficult in established regions. Creative destruction of any kind may present problems for sunk costs and earlier patterns in property use. Hence new business starts may be stopped in their tracks before they get a chance. Sometimes it's better to encourage entrepreneurial innovation and unique plans in new locations, where creative endeavor does not have to destroy someone else's efforts. Targeted growth does not have to threaten entire national game boards.

Struggles over national social and cultural issues are unfortunate enough, and often seem unnecessary. But one size fits all economic definitions are even worse, because they affect the living and working circumstance of all individuals on a daily basis. It's one thing for governments to explain how citizens should live. It's altogether another to impose economic limits, which make it difficult for individuals to help one another on an ongoing basis.

Everyone has different incentives and lifestyle patterns. Just as local preferences and endogenous structures are important for international development, they also matter for new communities in developed nations as well. May a thousand property use patterns bloom, for community formation! Even though planning for property use patterns has yet to reach the level of average citizens, hopefully this will be the next step.

Update: James Manzi's advocacy of randomized field trials (RTFs) is relevant to this post: http://jasoncollins.org/2015/01/28/manzis-uncontrolled/

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