Property Rights Conundrum: Does Common + Property = Nothing in Common and No Property Rights?

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"The thesis we develop in this paper is that our theoretical and empirical knowledge of how various types of property rights regimes affect incentives, behavior, and outcomes cannot cumulate as long as we use an ambiguous term--common property resource--to refer to different theoretical and operational situations. We briefly review how resource economists have used the term 'common property resources' to analyze the problem of fisheries. We then analyze the different bundles of rights which are included in various conceptions of property and define four types of legal positions--owners, proprietors, claimants, and squatters--by reference to which bundle of rights is possessed or not. Next we examine whether the set of right holders is defined or not and the individual or group status of the right holders. For rights held by collectivities, we examine whether the groups are organized or not and the type of enterprise structure involved. We then present a classification of property rights and organizational arrangements which enables us to sharpen predictions about particular property rights regimes which are likely to face problems of over-exploitation, extinction of species,and over investment of resources. Finally, we will illustrate how such a conceptual scheme helps bring clarity to disparate research findings related to the lobster industry in Maine."



fisheries, common pool resources, Workshop, property rights, lobster