Does this four-and-one-half-minute video depict a Tragedy of the Commons? Does it falsify or confirm the main tenets of the Coase Theorem? After all, “transaction costs” are low, yet we don’t we see any Coasean bargaining in this situation, or do we …? At last count (12 noon, 15 October 2014), this video has elicited over 450 comments on this San Francisco website (Uptown Almanac) and has been viewed over 321,000 times on YouTube. For our part, we agree with this comment from “VT Prof” (edited for clarity):
Scarce resources (soccer field in the middle of a crowded city) must always be rationed. First-come-first-served is one way to ration; price is another. Generally, we think price is a MUCH better way to ration … In this case, though, it’s not clear which rationing system is better. If property rights were clearly defined, a Coasean bargain could have been struck, but the whole argument happened because property rights weren’t sufficiently clear.
Given the lack of well-defined property rights in this situation, what is the proper resolution of this particular playground dispute? That is, which of the two groups should be allocated the initial entitlement or property right? Also, what method of allocation should apply here: custom or markets? Most importantly, who decides which method to apply? Lastly, do you see any possible connection between the dispute in this video and disputes between recliners and reclinees on commercial airlines? (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution and the amazing Tyler Cowen.)
It still amazes to see economists say this kind of stuff. The locals in this video like the system that they had been using. “Clearly defining property rights” would generate more conflict.
Excellent point. In the jargon of economics, perhaps leaving those rights unclear is a better strategic solution to the resource-allocation problem than defining those rights.