Wrestling with Tragedy on the Fiscal Commons
Chapter 4: Property Rights, Societal Tectonics, and the Fiscal Commons
4 Property rights, societal tectonics, and the fiscal commons The centralized mindset reduces the self-organized patterns created by interaction among independently acting entities to a point-mass entity that operates through choice by some leader. Contemporary treatments of political economy and public choice, for instance, typically reduce political outcomes to a singular act of choice by a median voter who is selected through an election. This framework makes it easy to offer definitive statements that can be attributed to that entity, but that easiness brings in its train misleading statements, erroneous implications, and an inability to appreciate the complex and balanced structure of reasonably well-working political arrangements. The economic theory of a market economy explains how the economic activities undertaken within a society acquire an organized character even though there is no one who does the organizing. This theory involves the conceptualization of private property as providing an institutional framework inside which a system of coordinated prices arises that facilitates the emergence of a reasonably wellcoordinated pattern of activity even though there is no person or office that is in charge of securing that coordination. This theory is clearly an incomplete explanation of the economic organization of societies because collective action is missing. This incompleteness is typically addressed by embracing a theoretical antinomy: privately organized activities are explained by a theory of interaction within a framework of market interaction, but collective activity is explained by a theory of planning outside of markets. To be sure, this explanation of collective activity does...
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