Libertarian scholar Roderick Long of Auburn University has argued that public (as opposed
to government) property is entirely legitimate:
Consider a village near a lake. It is common for the villagers to walk down to the lake to go fishing. In the early days of the community it’s hard to get to the lake because of all the bushes and fallen branches in the way. But over time, the way is cleared and a path forms–not through any centrally coordinated effort, but simply as a result of all the individuals walking that way day after day.
The cleared path is the product of labor–not any individual’s labor, but all of them together. If one villager decided to take advantage of the now-created path by setting up a gate and charging tolls, he would be violating the collective property right that the villagers together have earned.
Ostrom’s contributions, and Stiglitz’s attempted summary of them, point to an unfortunate tendency among many libertarians: the tendency to conflate the individual-commons distinction with the private-State distinction, and to equate common property to State property.
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