Collective Action and Property Rights: A Planner’s Critical Look at the Dogma of Private Property


The focus of this essay is success in collective action. It is based on a critical review and synthesis of the literature on collective action and property rights. I make three key arguments in the essay. First, contrary to the narrow conventional wisdom, self‐interested behavior can lead to successful collective action in both commonly managed resources and open‐access situations. The literature documents and explains a number of examples of success. Second, and nonetheless, collective action can be problematic and may require institutional responses, but privatization is not a panacea. Paradoxically, privatism can be a key source of the problems in collective action. And third, since the conventionally postulated, simple one‐to‐one relationship between a private property rights regime and an efficient outcome is not true, and given planners’ institutional interests, they should take a leading role in publicly advocating the potential viability of common property and collective action. Another important   objective   of   the   essay   is   to   introduce   to   the   readers   a   vast   body   of   non‐traditional   literature   that   has   relevance   for   urban   studies   and   planning   practice. I include the literature on private property rights, ‘the tragedy of the commons’, ‘the inverse commons’, ‘the comedy of the commons’, and ‘the tragedy of the anticommons’.