Property in the Commons: Origins and Paradigms

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Journal Article
Review of Radical Political Economics, 2016, 48 (1), pp. 9 - 19
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© 2015, © 2015 Union for Radical Political Economics. This paper reflects on historical debates about creating property in the commons and how the debaters have approached the topic. It does so by systematizing existing insights, especially those provided by Richard Schlatter in his book, Private Property: A History of An Idea (1951). The analysis shows that Hardin’s widely quoted paper is not the founding essay that attacked the commons. Also, it demonstrates that there is no “property rights approach” in political economy but several property rights approaches not only between heterodox and orthodox political economy but also within heterodox perspectives. The evidence is clearly that not much has changed in the debates about the commons except, perhaps, the geographical emphasis and the identity of the dramatis personae fanning the attacks on the commons, but not the economic interests supporting the decimation and dissipation of the commons.
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