Property Rights Arise When Labor Creates Scarce Value

Marking snow-cleared parking spaces is a wonderful example of Demsetz’s theory of how property rights tend to emerge when the efficiency gains are large enough.
I remember when I was a graduate student in Chicago sometime in the mid-to-late 1970s, there were a couple of very snowy winters in which Chicagoans would similarly claim spaces from which they had cleared the snow.
I remember, but alas did not save, an article (probably in the Chicago Tribune) documenting how someone “stole” a marked space, and later returned to find that a garden hose had been used to cover their car in a considerable layer of ice.

(p. 8A) CHICAGO (AP) — A blizzard that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on Chicago last week has revived a city tradition: Break out the patio furniture. Or, if none is available, suitcases, gar­bage cans, strollers, bar stools and milk crates work, too.

Chicagoans use all these items in a time-honored yet controver­sial system of preserving park­ing spots, a system known as “dibs.”
. . .
Actually, a city ordinance makes the practice illegal.
. . .
Even the city’s top police offi­cer sympathizes with those who do it.
“Think about it, you spend a couple hours clearing a spot, and somebody from another block takes it?” Superintendent Jody Weis said Friday.
. . .
“This is my spot because I worked hard to dig my car out,” said Max Rosario, 27, just be­fore he put his patio chair on the street. It joined 16 chairs, one slab of plywood, a plastic kids table, three bar stools and a TV dinner tray, among other things.

For the full story, see:
AP. “Chicagoans calling dibs after digging out; Chairs and other objects save precious parking spots that have been shoveled.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., FEBRUARY 6, 2011): 8A.
(Note: ellipses added.)

The Demsetz paper is:
Demsetz, Harold. “Toward a Theory of Property Rights.” American Economic Review 57, no. 2 (May 1967): 347-59.

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