Public v. Private Property [Introduction to Common Law] [No. 86]
Articles,  Blog

Public v. Private Property [Introduction to Common Law] [No. 86]


When we started to talk about the arrangements
of property, what is very common for all people is that you have some forms of property that
are private, that is owned by one or a very small number of individuals. And then you have other forms of property
that are held in common, such as that it’s owned by nobody with open access to all. In law school, we tend to study the common
elements less and the private elements more because the private elements are where you
have the voluntary contract for leases and for hires, and for mortgages and so forth. But to understand the full system, you have
to see the two parts. How do you know which resources should be
common property and which should be private property. To understand how this works, what you have
to do is to think about a map. And when you look at the map, you will see
parks, on the one hand, streets, tunnels and so forth, and lots of private parts of land. If you have something that’s long and skinny,
what it does is it allows you to link the activities that take place on separate parcels. But when things are long and thin, it turns
out it’s very difficult to erect any sensible kinds of structures on them. So what happens is when we have these rules
on the common, and this goes back to Roman Law, they are basically open to all, but they
may only be used for transportation and passage. Now to have a use of productive unit, what
you need to do is to get something that’s relatively squarish, so that you could have
build a building or a barn, or a house, or a field upon it. Now what you want therefore is to change the
ratio of the perimeter to the area and you’d like these things to be relatively squarish. So, the standard map always reflects that
particular element. You see the productive functions on the squares
and you see the linking functions as being long and thin. And the way they link together is through
the following very simple proposition. Any person who owns a square which is next
to a public road or a highway has the right to access on that road. And if you design the network correctly, it
means that every person who has private property with access to the road can, by staying on
the network, reach every other piece of property that has access to the system. And maps are drawn with those kinds of constraints
in question. One of the interesting features is when you’re
dealing with land say in a town. How do you make a plan for dealing with future
development of the roads that link things together? And what one very clever device is is that
the city fathers they do is they put down a grid, which indicates where the highways
are going to go and the small streets are going to go. They let people acquire whatever land they
want, but make it clear to them that when the time comes to build the roads and the
highways out, any private structure that they have is going to have to be removed. This very clever coordination devices means
that people, when they build on their own parts of land, will not build where they think
the streets and the highways are going to come. And so by a single device, you can have decentralized
acquisition of property on the one hand, and a coordinated infrastructure on the other.

5 Comments

  • Ekhart Troll

    there is no public property, these days public property is government private property with permitted use to public…

  • pattianne pascual

    So how did our public land with a waterfalls become 'historic' property that only the government has a say in when and how it's used, including closing the gates at a certain time, charging for events, etc? Doesn't sound very public to me.I always wonder if they personally know God and God himself sold them this 'public' land.

  • John Ellis

    If we have a right to own wealth, meaning to own more property than needed to have a comfortable life, than we have a right to do harm and humanity is domed to suffer extinction by global warming. On the other hand, if our wealth belongs to those suffering hunger, than humanity has some chance to survive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *